Remembering Marconi′s Great Event | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 19.12.2001
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Remembering Marconi's Great Event

At 12 p.m. on Dec. 12 , a century ago, Guglielmo Marconi became the first person to send a trans-atlantic radio signal


Guglielmo Marconi

The signal was almost nothing by our modern, digital standards.

A short "dit, dit, dit," morse code for S, S, S. delivered from a group of aerial masts in Cornwall, England to a radio antenna held aloft by a kite in Newfoundland, more than 2,100 miles away.

But the transmission, by radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi on Dec. 12, 1901, over wireless waves would go down in history. No one before him had ever sent radio signals over that great a distance. The discovery provided the groundwork for wireless communication in the future.

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Marconi's transmission, and radio enthusiasts in Cornwall and St. Johns plan a host of celebrations, including a re-enactment of the famous event. Canada's Governor General Adrienne Clarkson will also speak.

The events are in stark contrast to the reception Marconi got after his accomplishment. Many British scientists were skeptical of the transmission, while the Anglo American Telegraph Company threatened a lawsuit because they feared Marconi would infringe on their monopoly on transatlantic messages.

With his transmission, Marconi quashed theories that the earth's curvature would make it impossible to send radio signals.

He had begun experimenting before even turning 20, sending signals from his attic across fields behind his parent's villa in Bologna, Italy.

Though his family was supportive, he failed to get the Italian Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs interested in his work, however. He found a more sympathetic ear in Britain and took his apparatus there in 1896.

He grounded his company and set about recording small successes, transmitting sound of wireless waves over the English Channel.

On Dec. 12, 1901, he climbed up Signal Hill, in St. Johns to make history. Accolades followed, including the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909. Marconi died in 1937. In a unique tribute, wireless stations closed down and transmitters around the world fell silent.

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