20 People Who Changed Tech: Marconi And Tesla
In this sixth installment in our series, Howard Anderson profiles the pioneers of radio.
You gotta like Marconi, but you gotta love Tesla.
Guglielmo Marconi is usually credited with inventing the radio and pioneering long distance radio transmission, but Nikola Tesla's work on both was more seminal and farther reaching. For their contributions to wireless telegraphy, Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Braun, another early innovator, won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1909. But because Tesla and Thomas Edison were involved in a pitched battle on the AC/DC front, the Nobel Committee was probably looking for a set of compromise candidates. How pitched was that battle? Edison electrocuted an elephant to demonstrate the "danger" of Tesla's alternating current. An elephant? Weren't there any lawyers around?
Marconi was a first-rate businessman and built a major financial and manufacturing empire. He was a millionaire and tooled around on a luxury yacht. He proved Edison wrong. Edison thought the curvature of the Earth would limit radio transmission to 200 miles, but Marconi caught a break: The ionosphere reflected back electromagnetic waves.
The Supreme Court would later overturn Marconi's patent, in 1943, and award it to Tesla. It didn't hurt Tesla that Marconi was suing the U.S. government for using his patents and, if Marconi didn't really have a patent, the government wouldn't have to pay him a dime. Nor did it hurt that Marconi was a recognized fascist while Tesla, born and raised in the Austrian Empire, had become an American citizen.... Read full story on InformationWeek
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