RADIO RAMBLINGS

Who Invented the Wireless Radio?

This question has been hotly debated since the late 1800s. The history and development of wireless technology is complicated, and many innovations and achievements overlap. The invention of wireless technology could be attributed to many, including Sir Oliver J. Lodge, George M. Minchin, Ernest Rutherfod, R. Fessenden, Lee de Forest, Jagardis Bose, and Captain Henry Jackson, to name just a few. However, in Russia, Aleksandar Stepanovich Popov is commonly known as the inventor, while in the West, Guglielmo Marconi is most associated with the invention of wireless technology.  

Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi entered the wireless scene in 1895 and established Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd. in the years that followed. Marconi and his research team experimented with different ideas and inventions crafted by their contemporaries. Although Marconi did not independently invent all the components of his wireless system, he modified and improved all the parts and components until they fit into a simple working “black box.” Marconi was notably the first to produce wireless telegraphy commercially. 

Aleksandar Popov

In 1894, Russian physics professor, Aleksandar Popov, built his first radio receiver based on the experiments of Hertz and Lodge. This receiver is said to be the prototype for the first generation of radio communication systems. The next year, Popov made improvements to his radio device and presented a wireless telegraph station to the Russian Physical and Chemical Society. However, Popov’s apparatuses were not patented and were restricted by the Russian Navy.   

Images from top: 1908, Guglielmo Marconi. Digital image, Library of Congress, accessed January 26, 2021. < https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672066/>; Alexander Stepanovich Popov. Digital Image, Russian Empire, accessed January 26, 2021.

Designed by Langara Design Formation students Emma Heckman, Jacob Chong, Madeleine Finch, Taro Wood and Xander Adams  in collaboration with the VMM curatorial team