Guglielmo Marconi (25 April 1874 – 20 July 1937) was an Italian inventor and electrical engineer, known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission, development of Marconi's law, and a radio telegraph system. He is credited as the inventor of radio, and he shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun "in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy".
Marconi was also an entrepreneur, businessman, and founder of The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company in the United Kingdom in 1897 (which became the Marconi Company). He succeeded in making an engineering and commercial success of radio by innovating and building on the work of previous experimenters and physicists. In 1929, Marconi was ennobled as a Marchese (marquis) by King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, and, in 1931, he set up the Vatican Radio for Pope Pius XI.
Marconi was born into the Italian nobility as Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi in Bologna on 25 April 1874, the second son of Giuseppe Marconi and his Irish wife Annie Jameson (granddaughter of John Jameson, founder of whiskey distillers Jameson & Sons, Ireland).
Marconi did not attend school as a child and did not go on to formal higher education. Instead, he learned chemistry, math, and physics at home from a series of private tutors hired by his parents. Marconi noted an important mentor was professor Vincenzo Rosa, a high school physics teacher in Livorno. Rosa taught the 17-year-old Marconi the basics of physical phenomena as well as new theories on electricity. At the age of 18 and back in Bologna, Marconi became acquainted with University of Bologna physicist Augusto Righi, who had done research on Heinrich Hertz's work. Righi permitted Marconi to attend lectures at the university and also to use the University's laboratory and library.
At the age of 20, Marconi began to conduct experiments in radio waves, building much of his own equipment in the attic of his home at the Villa Griffone in Pontecchio, Italy with the help of his butler Mignani. Late one night, in December 1894, Marconi demonstrated a radio transmitter and receiver to his mother, a set-up that made a bell ring on the other side of the room by pushing a telegraphic button on a bench. Supported by his father, Marconi continued to read through the literature and picked up on the ideas of physicists who were experimenting with radio waves. He developed devices, such as portable transmitters and receiver systems, that could work over long distances, turning what was essentially a laboratory experiment into a useful communication system.
Marconi made the first demonstration of his invention for the British government in July 1896. On 13 May 1897, Marconi sent the first ever wireless communication over open sea – a message was transmitted over the Bristol Channel from Flat Holm Island to Lavernock Point in Penarth, a distance of 6 kilometres. The message read "Are you ready".
On July 20th 1897 the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Co. was formed in London. Marconi received substantial financial support from his family, and especially from his cousin Henry Jameson-Davis. First chairman of the "Wireless Telegraph and Signal Co." was the whiskey burner Jameson-Davis. The first eight partners in the company were individuals from the Whiskey industry.
On 17 December 1902, a transmission from the Marconi station in Glace Bay became the world's first radio message to cross the Atlantic from North America. Marconi built a station near South Wellfleet, that sent a message of greetings on 18 January 1903 from United States President Theodore Roosevelt to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.
The role played by Marconi Co. wireless in maritime rescues raised public awareness of the value of radio and brought fame to Marconi, particularly the sinking of the RMS Titanic on 15 April 1912 and the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915.
RMS Titanic radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were not employed by the White Star Line but by the Marconi International Marine Communication Company. After the sinking of the ocean liner on 15 April 1912, survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia of the Cunard Line. Also employed by the Marconi Company was David Sarnoff, who later headed RCA. Wireless communications were reportedly maintained for 72 hours between Carpathia and Sarnoff.
On 18 June 1912, Marconi gave evidence to the Court of Inquiry into the loss of Titanic regarding the marine telegraphy's functions and the procedures for emergencies at sea. Britain's postmaster-general summed up, referring to the Titanic disaster: "Those who have been saved, have been saved through one man, Mr. Marconi ... and his marvellous invention."Marconi was offered free passage on Titanic before she sank, but had taken the RMS Lusitania three days earlier. As his daughter Degna later explained, he had paperwork to do and preferred the public stenographer aboard that vessel. Three years later, in April 1915, Marconi participated in the last completed ocean crossing of the Lusitania, which was sunk by the German submarine U20 on its next crossing.
When Marconi died on July 20th 1937 any radio transmission was stopped worldwide for 2 minutes.
In honor of his achievements, the asteroid (1332) Marconia and a lunar crater on the back of the moon are named after him. The international airport of the Italian city of Bologna also bears the name Guglielmo Marconi. In memory of him, an annual radio contest is called the Marconi memorial contest. In the Italian language, a radio operator is called a Marconista.