Marconi Books

Marconi on Salisbury Plain

Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi, (25th April 1874 – 20th July 1937) was an Italian inventor, electrical engineer and pioneer of wireless communication. He is often credited as the 'inventor of radio', but the story is far more complex than this. In 1909 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun 'in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy'. He was an entrepreneur, businessman and founder in Britain in 1897 of The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company (which eventually became the Marconi Company). After five years of intensive struggle his Company went from strength to strength defining, designing and building the modern world of electronics, broadcasting and communications as we know it today.

Guglielmo Marconi is responsible for taking a series of laboratory experiments and turning them into a reliable and practical form of wireless communication, later known as radio. Marconi succeeded in making a commercial success of radio by innovating and building on the work of many previous experimenters and physicists. It was probably Heinrich Hertz, Edward Branly and Oliver Lodge who provided the main pieces that allowed Marconi to transfer James Clerk Maxwell's purely theoretical concepts into equipment that could be demonstrated and trialled.

But it required the remarkably complex character of Guglielmo Marconi to take all the ideas and assemble all the parts, add his own ideas and innovations and then transfer all this knowledge in a commercially successful system suitable for the market place. It also took his hard work and perseverance to actually create the market. This he did even though he had no business experience. His own practical acumen and common sense, married with considerable doses of advice and expertise from his engineering and scientific team and the support from his mother and family did the rest.

Marconi was the right man in the right place at the right time. He was the right man because he had the ideal combination of personal characteristics for the job: persistence, daring, technical ability, charisma and flair for public relations. He had just enough scientific understanding to convince a sceptical layman he knew what he was talking about, but not enough to be intimidated by the potential obstacles and scientific prejudice that he had to overcome at almost every step. He also had an extremely practical outlook geared to a simple marketing objective that he pursued with unshakable determination. Last, but by no means least, he also possessed a considerable amount of courage.

Nobody else at the time had this very special combination. The true measure of Marconi's genius is that he had faith enough to put his theories into practice and ran countless successful demonstrations, often in extreme conditions that achieved many world firsts and advanced the limits of scientific understanding. He then built hugely expensive and complex experimental stations on the south coast of England, the Isle of Wight and in Cornwall. Then, when his company was showing its first sign of commercial success after nearly five years of struggle to get his first orders from the Royal Navy and shipping lines, he risked everything and set sail across an ocean to prove it all. In the face of disbelief and scorn from his fellow scientists he had the genius to know it would work, and perhaps luck enough to make it work.

Without question what Marconi did was to invent what became an entirely new and huge industry. In his hands an obscure and to most people unintelligible branch of physics and electrical engineering became a simple consumer product. Throughout history there are in reality very few inventions or technologies that actually change the world forever. Marconi's is one of those.

It is also likely that without Marconi’s determined and driven stewardship there would not have been the modern explosion in communications technology as we know it today. Marconi left behind him a world that had come to regard wireless as a commodity, not a miracle.

Quite simply, in just five years, Marconi’s vision transformed our world and the silence was broken by the youthful dreams of one man.