The radio owes its growth and development to other two inventions, the telegraph and the telephone, all three technologies being closely associated. Radio technology began as wireless telegraphy. It all began with the discovery of radio waves. Many devices work by using electromagnetic waves, including radio, cordless phone, remote control toys, TV broadcasts and so on.
During the 1860s, Scottish physicist James Clerck Maxwell predicted the existence of radio waves and in 1886, German physicist Heinrich Rudolph Hertz has shown that rapid changes of electric current could be projected into space as radio waves, similar to those of light and heat.
In 1866, the American dentist Mahlon Loomis successfully demonstrated wireless telegraphy, marking the first ever known wireless aerial communication.
Two people in particular have competed in what was to become the race for the invention of radio: Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi. After his emigration to the United States in 1884, Tesla invented the induction coil or “the Tesla Coil”, a device that was essential for sending and receiving radio waves and the one Marconi relied on for his work.
Unfortunately for Tesla, in 1895 his lab is destroyed by a large fire when he was preparing to send a radio signal to about 80 kilometers away. That’s why his experiment would have still have taken several years to be realized.
Meanwhile, Marconi was busy conducting his own experiments; in 1896, he sent and received radio signals based on Morse code, at distances of 6 kilometers. That same year, he applied for, and was granted, the world’s first patent in wireless telegraphy in England.
Tesla also applied for his first patent in radio work in 1897 in the United States. He also built and demonstrated a radio-controlled boat at Madison Square Garden in 1898. Here’s where things get tangled.
In 1900, the U.S. Patent Office granted Tesla patents 645.576 and 649.621, the fundamental design of the Tesla coils, on March 20 and May 15 respectively. Tesla’s radio patents gave him ownership over one of the key elements in radio communications. In the same year, on November 10, Marconi filed patent number 77777, for tuned telegraphy.
At first, the patent office rejected Marconi’s applications, on the grounds that his work was based on using Tesla coil. Unfazed, Marconi used his father’s connections and wealth to launch a profitable business based on his telegraph technology, while continuing to pursue his radio patents. In 1901, he transmitted the first transatlantic telegraphic message. Until 1903, a Marconi sration near Wellfleet, Massachusetts, sent several messages between US President Theodore Roosevelt and King Edward VII of Great Britain.
Marconi continued to apply for 3 more years for the patent, while he gained financial support from company investors Andrew Carnegie and Thomas Edison. Finally in 1904, the U.S. Patent Office inexplicably changed its earlier decision and awarded Guglielmo Marconi the patent for invention of the radio.
In 1905, the naval battle of Port Arthur in the Russo-Japanese war was transmitted via radio telegraphy and in 1906 the U.S. Weather Bureau experimented with radiotelegraphy to speed notice of weather conditions.
In 1909, Robert E. Peary, arctic explorer, sent via radiotelegraphy the message “I found the Pole”.
That same year, Marconi won the Nobel Prize in Physics, which further fueled the rivalry with Tesla. In 1915, Tesla sued the Marconi Company for infringement of its patent, but to no avail. Marconi won, even if only for a few decades.
In an ironic twist of fate, Marconi company sued the US government in 1943 for patent infringement during World War I. However, the process never made it to court. Instead, to avoid the lawsuit altogether, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld patent 645,576, thus restoring Tesla as the inventor of the radio.
Unfortunately for Tesla, he never got to see how the justice were served for him, dying a few months earlier. However, many people still tend to think of Marconi as the father of the radio. This is just one of the injustices that Tesla has suffered over time.