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28 October 2014

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The arrest of Crippen and other achievements
Marconi at work

Guglielmo Marconi is known as the pioneer of wireless and respected throughout the world.

He freed communications from the constraints imposed by fixed cable. This is his story.

Internet links
Official Marconi site

More coverage of Marconi from BBC Essex

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Fact file banner
+ Marconi was born in 1874.

+Even in early childhood he was devising scientific toys.

+ He was encouraged to persue his interests after failing to enter the Italian Naval Academy.

+His achievements brought him the respect of Queen Victoria.

+Wireless stations fell silent as a mark of respect when Marconi died in 1937.


Marconi was born on April 25 1874.

He was the second son of a runaway marriage between Giuseppe Marconi and Annie Jameson.

From an early age he was devising scientific toys. He would take apart mechanical objects and reassemble them. He played the piano and fished for trout.

His education was rather disjointed. He was educated in England and Italy, either in school or with private tutors. He was encouraged to concentrate on his scientific interests after failing to qualify for the Italian Naval Academy.

He attended lectures by Augustus Righi, a professor of physics at Bologna University. Righi was a great influence on the young Marconi as he was a pioneer of work on wireless waves.

Marconi profile
Success was on the way

Many experiments followed and by 1895 Marconi had increased his range of transmission from a few yards to more than two kilometres across the fields. He persuaded his family to launch him in business.

Marconi left for London, the capital of the world's leading maritime nation and greatest trading empire. He arrived in February 1896.

He met A.A. Campbell-Swinton, a leading engineer in the field of electrical communications. In June 1896 Marconi submitted a full specification for the world's first wireless patent for a system of telegraphy using Hertzian waves.

By the end of the year, Marconi had demonstrated his system to the GPO and the armed services. His demonstrations caused a sensation and he became a celebrity.

Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria respected Marconi

His system won many important admirers. Despite her age and fragility Queen Victoria met Marconi and exchanged messages by wireless between her Isle of Wight residence and the Prince of Wales who was onboard the Royal yacht.

Next Marconi carried out tests between a Trinity House Lighthouse near Dover and the East Goodwin Lightship. It was to demonstrate that wireless could be used to protect lives at sea by means of ship-to-shore.

With the agreement of the French government, a wireless station was set up at Wimereux near Bologne and on 27 March 1899, Marconi transmitted the first international wireless message across the Channel from Wimereux to the South Foreland Lighthouse near Dover.

In 1901 Marconi became the first person to bridge the Atlantic by wireless. Read our feature.

Saving lives

In 1909 Marconi shared the credit when 1,700 lives were saved through wireless distress calls when two liners collided and one of them sank off the coast of the USA. He then shared the Nobel Prize for physics with one of the founders of his company's rivals, the Telefunken Company of Germany.

The following year saw more success. The wireless was sensationally applied for the first time to apprehend a dangerous criminal. On the westward bound SS Montrose, the captain asked his Marconi operator to send a brief message to England:

"Have strong suspicions that Crippen London cellar murderer and accomplice are among saloon passengers. Accomplice dressed as a boy. Voice manner and build undoubtedly a girl."

A detective from Scotland Yard boarded a faster ship and arrested him before SS Montrose docked in Montreal.

More success followed for Marconi including experimenting with microwaves.

Marconi in later life
Content with his achievements

Marconi moved to Rome in 1935, never to leave Italy again. He died on 20 July 1937 aged 63. His body was laid to rest in the mausoleum in the grounds of Villa Griffone.

In a unique gesture wireless stations closed down and transmitters all over the world fell silent. He will forever be remembered for his work which changed the world of communication. His achievements will be highlighted in the new Marconi centre in Poldhu. This opens on the 100th anniversary of the first transatlantic signal being sent by wireless waves from Poldhu in Cornwall to Newfoundland. Find out more about the Marconi Centre



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