Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi (1874 - 1937) was an Italian scientist, best known for his credit as the inventor of the radio. In 1909, he shared the coveted Nobel Prize in Physics. During his lifetime, he was awarded the noble title Marchese, making him also known as the 1st Marquis of Marconi.
As a child, Marconi developed an early interest in science, particularly electrical science. However, he did not attend school, nor did he enter higher education. Instead, his parents hired him private tutors, particularly those specialising in mathematics and science.
From the age of 20, Marconi began conducting experiments in radio waves at his father’s home in Ponteccio. Little did he know, this would be the precursor for wireless technology and radio as we know them today.
Marconi’s ultimate dream was to be able to transmit a message across the Atlantic. At 22, he moved to England to try and drum up some support for his work. His meeting with William Preece of the Post Office, shortly after his arrival, was instrumental in helping Marconi to gain followers and financial backing.
After his move to England, with financial freedom at last, Marconi made several leaps forward with technology. He transmitted Morse Code signals over Salsbury Plain, then successfully sent the first ever wireless telegraph over the open sea. It was at this point his work started to attract international interest.
In 1901, Marconi achieved the amazing feat of transmitting the first wireless signals 2,000 miles across the Atlantic from Cornwall to Newfoundland. Scientists worldwide, including Thomas Edison, lauded this huge leap forward in transmission.
Perhaps most notably, Marconi was credited with the rescue of 700 people (almost one-third) from the sinking HMS Titanic. The cruise liner’s radio operatives were Marconi employees, who sent a message to the nearby HMS Carpathia alerting them of the passengers’ impending doom.
During the First World War, he was commissioned in the Italian Army which gave him a platform to hone his technology. Not before long, he then became a Commander in the Navy, becoming an important part of a government mission to the US in 1917. He then travelled to Paris as a guest of the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919, where he was sent as an envoy to help broker a peace agreement between Austria and Bulgaria. The same year he was awarded the Italian Military Medal.
However, his career was littered with controversy, denting his previously clean public image. Marconi joined the National Fascist Party in 1923. In a lecture, he spoke about, “the honour of being the first fascist in the field of radiotelegraphy”. Despite this, Marconi received multiple medals in his lifetime, several university doctorates plus many honours including freedom of the City of Rome.
In 1937, Marconi passed away from a heart attack in Rome.
In 1975, thirty-eight years after his death, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Around the same time, two statues of Marconi were commissioned: one in Hoboken, New York and the other in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.