Marconi, the lucky inventor

In 1900, Guglielmo Marconi registered patent 7777 in the United Kingdom for his invention of wireless telegraphy. Three years earlier he had achieved the first wireless telegraphy transmission over the open sea. He sent a message five kilometers away saying “Are you ready?”. Marconi, the lucky inventor, would later dodge death twice.

In 1899 he established communication between France and England across the English Channel. In 1901 wireless telegraphy jumped the Atlantic Ocean. It communicated by Hertzian waves, Poldhu (England) with Saint Johns (Canada). Three very weak signals – three dots corresponding to the letter ‘s’ – traveled 3,684 km.

Marconi, the lucky inventor, circumvented death twice.
Marconi, the lucky inventor, outwitted death twice.

Escaping death

In 1909 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for “his contribution to wireless telegraphy”. Three years later Marconi and his wife, Beatrice, were invited by the White Star Line. They were offered to travel on the Titanic’s maiden voyage, at the shipping company’s expense. The Italian engineer declined. He had a backlog of work and needed a stenographer to be able to work on board. Thanks to that, he was able to save his life.

Three years later, the world was immersed in the First World War. Marconi re-embarked on the Lusitania bound for New York. When the liner was returning to Liverpool, it was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Nearly 1,200 people lost their lives. Marconi had stayed in the city to testify in a patent trial. Marconi, the lucky inventor, was dodging death.

He could have died on the Titanic, but declined the invitation.
He could have died on the Titanic, but declined the invitation.

Another man’s luck

However, much of the credit actually belonged to Nikolas Tesla (1856-1943). This Serbian inventor had patented the induction coil in 1891. This circuit is commonly used in radios. He also designed in 1895 – two years before Marconi – a system for transmitting voice messages without wires.

His tenacity and ingenuity would be rewarded, albeit belatedly. It was in 1943. The Supreme Court of the United States recognized the Serbian as the inventor of the radio. By then the Italian had already been resting in eternal sleep for six years and had enjoyed enormous popularity during his lifetime.

There is no doubt that he was a lucky man.

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