Who do you think invented radio?

Harold Kinley, a contributing editor to our Wireless Telecommunications Group of magazines (of which RF Design is a member) sent an e-mail message that revived that question.

My usual list includes Guglielmo Marconi, Nikola Tesla, Alexander Popov, Sir Oliver Lodge, Reginald Fessenden, Heinrich Hertz, Amos Dolbear, Mahlon Loomis, Nathan Stubblefield and James Clerk Maxwell.

Marconi? He gets the most press. My friend Raymond Minichiello, P.E., founder of Guglielmo Marconi Foundation U.S.A. and curator of the U.S. Marconi Museum (www.marconiusa.org), may cringe if I put it that casually. Marconi won patents and made radio a commercial success. Commercial success does a great deal to multiply the use and applications of a technology.

Tesla? In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Marconi's patents were invalid due to Tesla's prior descriptions. Marconi was already gone; Tesla died the same year.

Popov? The U.S. Navy weighed in, giving some credit to Popov (sometimes spelled Popoff) in a 1963 U.S. government publication, History of Communications - Electronics in the United States Navy.

“Popoff utilized his equipment to obtain information for a study of atmospheric electricity…. On 7 May 1895, in a lecture before the Russian Physicist Society of St. Petersburg, he stated he had transmitted and received signals at an intervening distance of 600 yards,” the Navy's account reads.

In the same year, Marconi transmitted and received signals within the limits of his father's estate at Bologna, Italy.

“Marconi can scarcely be called an inventor. His contribution was more in the fields of applied research and engineering development. He possessed a very practical business acumen, and he was not hampered by the same driving urge to do fundamental research, which had caused Lodge and Popoff to procrastinate in the development of a commercial radio system,” the Navy wrote.

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