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Tesla and Marconi

June 16th, 2009
Faculty of Engineering, Bologna

Isa Topic 2009


Prof. W. Bernard Carlson
Department of Science, Technology, and Society
School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Virginia

Carlson, great expert in History of Electricity and Technology has long been working on a biography of Tesla. In his magisterial lecture at Bologna, Carlson has told and compared the stories of both inventors, Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi, one in the United States and the other in Europe, who were the first to experiment with the hertzian waves trying to transmit at distance.

Tesla, born in 1856, had already proved in 1892/93 that electric impulses could be sent from a point to another within few metres without the support of cables. Marconi, born in 1874, had instead transmitted in 1895 a true signal, that is an impulse containing a message, over a natural obstacle. From that point their routes started to diverge year by year. Tesla planned to sprinkle wireless electric power all over the earth (through the ground in emission and through the air in remission). He retired at Colorado Springs where he tried to build a great transmitting station. Marconi worked constantly at developing his wireless communication system (through the air in emission and through the ground in remission) and experimented step by step until 1901 when he could transmit a signal across the Atlantic.

Marconi was successful, because he had clear in his mind both the goal and the means to attain it, whereas Tesla’s idea was vague and, as far as we know today, also unfeasible. Nevertheless Tesla, before Marconi, was able to send hertzian waves at distance. There is thus no doubt that Marconi was the pioneer of wireless telegraphy, while Tesla was that of wireless power connection.














David Sarnoffsarnoff

Marconi was the creator of the present day civilization of the radio. All of those who, with spirit of initiative and perseverance, have brought us to the present stage of development have built on the foundations laid by Marconi. Everyone considered him the tutelary genius of their work.


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