In 1909 Guglielmo Marconi was the first Italian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Even though he was still young - Marconi was 35 - the prize came at the end of an extraordinarily intense period of work that had lasted almost 15 years, beginning in the laboratory of his family home - Villa Griffone, in the hills around Bologna - with his first experiments of wireless telegraphy.
However, the theatre of his pioneering work in radio communications were the Atlantic coasts: Great Britain was a second home for Marconi as inventor but a first home for his career as entrepreneur, Ireland - where his mother Annie Jameson was from - hosted important stations for his first transatlantic connections. Canada and the United States saw triumphs of the young Italian visionary who between 1901 and 1903 managed, in the midst of polemics, scepticism and great wonder, to receive the first radiotelegraphic signals across the huge natural obstacle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Between 1895 and 1903 Marconi was the matchless pioneer in radio communications, but despite speculation that he could win the Nobel Prize at the end of that period, the years that he took to consolidate his remarkable achievements were still hard and demanding. A fundamental step in the process was to launch the first regular public radio telegraphic service across the Atlantic in October 1907.
No doubts that the exceptional usefulness of emergency radio was proved when passengers were rescued from the liner Republic in January 1909 mainly for the merits of the radio operator Binns, who worked for the Marconi Company. It was in that year that had begun with the clamour over the Republic rescue that Marconi won - along with the German scientist Karl Ferdinand Braun - the Nobel Prize for Physics «in recognition of their contribution to the development of wireless telegraphy».
Marconi's career continued for many years and on dozens of occasions he was celebrated as a living symbol of radio communications, but there is no doubt that being awarded the Nobel Prize was a fundamental moment for him. At just 21, he initiated a true revolution in telecommunications and devoted his entire career to the development of the radio, combining scientific skills, entrepreneurial qualities, great intuition and extraordinary determinatio
The Nobel Prize centenary was therefore a fitting occasion for a programme which was rich of initiatives celebrating the great importance of Marconi as inventor and entrepreneur in our present times. Marconi was a cosmopolitan figure whose invention and its further developments are still today a powerful tool for humanity.
Hans Hildebrand, Presentation Speech, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, December 10th, 1909
Guglielmo Marconi, Nobel Lecture, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, December 11th, 1909