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Guglielmo Marconi: Application of Radio Waves to Communication, 1918

A Determined Mind

Guglielmo Marconi was born into a prosperous family in Bologna, Italy, on April 25, 1874. His father, Giuseppe, was a country landowner and his mother, Anne Jameson, was a daughter of the Irish distillery family. His education varied in style from schoolrooms to private tutors and in location from England to Leghorn, Florence, and Bologna. Perhaps due to this fractured educational history, Marconi failed, at age 18, to be accepted by either of his further schooling choices: the Italian Naval Academy or the University of Bologna.

With a knack for mechanical tinkering, he had been experimenting with various devices. At the age of 16 he built his first telegraph transmitter; the transmission distance achieved was two meters.

This gifted amateur scientist continued his trial-and-error investigations in his home workshop and made a major advance when, hearing of the detection of radio waves by Heinrich Hertz, he adapted the discovery to his own work. By the following year he had extended accurate transmission and detection using this "wireless" technology to a distance of 2,000 meters.

With this progress, Marconi, then 21 years old, set out to sell his invention. All future developments—both successful and unsuccessful—showed his single-mindedness, determination, and perseverance.