English (UK)Italian (IT)

Marconi Museum

visits: Sunday at 10 am
working days on reservation
info visits



gmblogo b

Edwin Howard Armstrong

Born in New York in 1890, Edwin Armstrong graduated in engineering from Columbia University, and later served in France during the First World War, enlisted in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. There he patented the superheterodyne circuit, that he had been developing for quite some time, but was obliged to face a lawsuit, which he lost to Lucien Lévy.

Upon his return home, he faced a wearing legal battle (1922-1934) with De Forest for the rights over the feedback or regenerative circuit. Even in this case, after varying sentences, Armstrong was not able to obtain full recognition for his original contribution.

In the meantime, he was perfecting a system of frequency-modulated (FM) transmission, in place of amplitude-modulated (AM) transmission, a system which he patented in 1933, after years of experimentation in the laboratories of Columbia University.

In 1937 he financed the construction of the first FM radio station in Alpine (New Jersey). But the FM system encountered much resistance, on the one hand because it challenged an industrial organization founded on the AM system and, on the other hand, because it presented itself as an eligible candidate in the competitive tender for the wave band allocation, in which the newly born television was also participating.

In 1945, the frequency allocations established by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), under the influence of David Sarnoff's RCA (Radio Corporation of America), penalized the FM system and Armstrong, who could have obtained significant rights from his patent. Rights, however, that the RCA did not want to recognize, resulting in another legal battle.

Armstrong, who had also collaborated with the U.S. Army in the Second World War, making improvements to the long distance FM system and to continuous wave radar, patented in 1953 the Multiplexing FM, a system of multiple transmissions on the same wavelength.

Forced to negotiate with the RCA because he was no longer able to sustain the legal fees, Armstrong fell into a deep depression and, on January 31st 1954, committed suicide, jumping to his death from the thirteenth floor of his New York apartment. Marion, the widow, took up the case again against RCA and, after a long process, finally obtained justice.

Armstrong's career, marked and almost jinxed by the trials of the patent disputes, came to a tragic conclusion. On the contrary, the successive developments in radio transmission proved all of his merits, so much so that today we still enjoy some of his precious intuitions.


























© 2013 - Fondazione Guglielmo Marconi - Villa Griffone - via Celestini 1 - 40037 Pontecchio Marconi (BO) - C.F 80063250379

We use cookies to make sure you can have the best experience on our website. Continuing in the navigation, you agree to our cookies policy.