“If we consider what science already has enabled men to know—the immensity of space, the fantastic philosophy of the stars, the infinite smallness of the composition of atoms, the macrocosm whereby we succeed only in creating outlines and translating a measure into numbers without our minds being able to form any concrete idea of it—we remain astounded by the enormous machinery of the universe.” — Guglielmo Marconi, 1934
On this day in 1901 Guglielmo Marconi defied the naysayers and succeeded in sending the first transatlantic radio signal from Cornwall on the west coast of England to Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada. It was only the letter “S” (…) in Morse code, but, as breakthroughs go, this one was huge. Of course, the naysayers were technically correct – the curvature of the earth would have prevented the trsansmission from succeeding, but in the course of the signal heading up into space, it hit the ionosphere and bounced back and made it to Canada. Scientific discovery and innovation are full of ‘happy accidents’ and dumb luck. Needless to say, more work was involved before radio transmissions were controllable – and commercially vialble – and Marconi continued to work with them until his death in 1937. He and German radio researcher Ferdinand Braun were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909.
Image of Marconi courtesy of Wikipedia