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You are in: Cornwall > history > Features > Magic of Marconi

Marconi transmitting

Magic of Marconi

The BBC Cornwall website launched on a special anniversary, the 100th anniversary of 'Marconi's Leap', the first trans-Atlantic wireless signal which was sent from west Cornwall by Marconi, the pioneer of wireless. We look back on his life.

It was over 100 years ago that the first trans-Atlantic wireless signal was sent and received.

Click on the link below to watch a BBC Spotlight special about Marconi's Leap:

Many believe Guglielmo Marconi was the pioneer of wireless, bringing all parts of the world together.


A young Marconi at work

Marconi's project in Poldhu, west Cornwall led him to become the first person to bridge the Atlantic by wireless. It was a massive financial gamble finally costing £50,000, an enormous sum at the time.

Many scientists believed the curvature of the earth would prevent wireless waves, travelling in straight lines, from spanning the Atlantic. Marconi set out to prove this was not the case.

A Genius

Marconi chose sites at Poldhu and Cape Cod in Masachusetts. Later Glace Bay in Canada would be chosen.

In September 1901 the 200 feet aerial masts, which were erected at Poldhu, were blown down in a storm.

Despite this setback Marconi continued. A temporary aerial was erected. He agreed to replace the system of masts with a permanent structure of four wooden towers.

It was decided transmission should be attempted to the nearest landfall on the American continent. This was Newfoundland.


Marconi's achievements are still celebrated

Marconi set sail with two assistants in November 1901. The colonial government of Newfoundland offered him assistance and he was loaned premises at Signal Hill in St John's to set up his equipment.

On 11 December  the first attempt at transmission from Poldhu took place. A weak signal was received but disaster struck when the strong wind caused the balloon that was holding the aerial aloft to be lost. But Marconi was not giving up now he had come so far.

On 12 December, after losing one kite, a second was launched with the aerial attached and a signal from Poldhu was heard unmistakably by Marconi and his assistant Kemp.

"The chief question was whether wireless waves would be stopped by the curvature of the earth. All along I had been convinced that this was not so. The first and final answer came at 12:30 when I heard ... dot ... dot ... dot" - Marconi

The British press of the time may have been sceptical but the Canadian government hailed Marconi as a benefactor.


The wireless genius Marconi

They offered him land plus £16,000 towards the building of a wireless station there. In New York he was honoured by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Eddison both personally honoured Guglielmo Marconi.

The Marconi Anniversary - 2001

The BBC Cornwall  website was launched to coincide with the Marconi celebrations.

The BBC team were at Poldhu to witness the spark gap transmission made to Canada 100 years on.

The new Marconi Centre started as a dream. It became a reality on the 100th anniversary of Marconi's 'Atlantic Leap' when the keys were handed over to the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club. The centre is now the home for PARC and a lasting tribute to Marconi's work.

last updated: 05/03/2008 at 11:51
created: 04/03/2008

You are in: Cornwall > history > Features > Magic of Marconi

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