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Who invented the radio?

Read about the scientists/inventors have claimed the radio as their invention.

The development of radios like this depended on several individuals. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
The development of radios like this depended on several individuals.

The radio is an iconic staple of American entertainment. Before the invention of the television, families gathered around their radios for news and entertainment. But no one person can take sole credit for this important piece of technology. Several people made critical contributions to the development of radio, each building on the achievements of those who came before him. In this article, we will look at three men who invented the radio, or at least one important aspect of radio communication: Heinrich Hertz, Guglielmo Marconi and Nikola Tesla.

Hertz' Contribution

Because he was the first person to send and receive radio waves, some call Heinrich Hertz the inventor of the radio. Hertz, a German physicist, studied electromagnetic (radio) waves. He successfully produced radio waves and demonstrated that their characteristics were similar to those of heat and light waves. The unit of frequency called hertz (abbreviated Hz) was named in his honor.

Marconi's Transatlantic Sound

Others refer to Guglielmo Marconi as the inventor of the radio. Born in Italy in 1874, Marconi studied Hertz's radio experiments and took them a step further, using radio waves to send messages wirelessly over a distance. His hope was that these transmissions would give ships a way to communicate with those on land in the event of an emergency.

In 1895, Marconi transmitted a radio signal two kilometers. He gradually increased that distance in subsequent experiments. Marconi successfully transmitted and received radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean a distance of more than 3,000 kilometers in 1901. This historical event marked the beginning of long-distance wireless communication. For this reason, some say that Marconi invented the radio as well as the international telecommunications industry.

In 1896, Marconi was granted the first wireless telegraphy patent in England. One year later, he registered his new communications company, called the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company. Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909 for his contributions to radio and wireless communication.

Marconi's wireless radio equipment was put to its intended use in 1912, when some passengers of the Titanic were saved by the technology he invented. In 1920, Marconi also had a role in Britain's first advertised radio broadcast, when a singer's voice was transmitted by a Marconi telephone transmitter.

Nikola Tesla and the Inducation Coil

However, others were making strides in radio technology at the same time. Nikola Tesla, an engineer perhaps best known for his contributions to electricity, invented the Tesla coil, an induction coil used in radio transmission.

In 1895, Tesla was planning to use the new coils to transmit powerful radio signals across a distance, but his laboratory was destroyed by a fire before he could complete the work.

Marconi had just patented his wireless radio technology in England in 1896, and Tesla followed with his own radio patent application in America in 1897, which was soon granted. Marconi then applied for a radio patent application in America, but his was rejected.

However, for reasons that are still unclear today, in 1904 the United States Patent Office reversed its decision to grant Teslas patent and instead granted Marconi the radio patent. That is perhaps why most credit Marconi as the man who invented the radio.

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