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Oliver Joseph Lodge

In the late 19th and early 20th century, many scholars questioned Marconi's wireless telegraphy invention. The English scientist Oliver Lodge was probably the most resentful and obstinate.

Born in Staffordshire in 1851, Lodge taught Physics at Liverpool and Birmingham universities. He was the first to reproduce and improve Hertz' experiments and also concentrated on the study of lightning and electrical discharges. During the same period, but independent of each other, the French scientist Edouard Branly and Lodge worked on a device able to catch electromagnetic waves known as the coherer. It was the British physicist who perfected the device however, and called it a «coherer».

When, in 1897, the English press began to write about Marconi, Lodge stated that nothing had been invented by the Italian scientist, because in 1894, one year prior to Marconi, he had already proved the possibility of wireless transmission over distance. In this debate Lodge was supported by a large part of the British physicists of the time. He repeated his claim several times and totally disagreed with the Post Office chief engineer, William Preece, whom he had already challenged on various occasions in the past. Even after the historic wireless transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, Lodge declared that Marconi had made a «rash and enthusiastic announcement» about his success, but he was clearly proved wrong.

Oliver Lodge worked with Alexander Muirhead planning and producing radiotelegraphic equipment. They registered a great number of patents, but Lodge had little commercial success. However, in 1911 the Marconi Company lost a brief legal battle and was forced to purchase Lodge's syntonic tuner, which he had patented in 1897. From this, Lodge gained a life-long income.

In his speech at the Swedish Royal Academy, Marconi recalled that for a long period his most important innovation (the aerial-ground system) was ignored by several physicists, including Oliver Lodge.

However, during his long life, Lodge who died three years after the younger Marconi in 1940, acknowledged in part some of Marconi's achievements. Above all he admitted that at the beginning of his career he had failed to understand the importance of wireless telegraphy, as not only the transmission of electrical impulses, but also that of real messages.































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Marconi was the right man in the right place at the right time. He was the right man because he had the ideal combination of personal characteristics for the job: persistence, daring, technical ability, charisma and flair for public relations.

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