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Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi The existence of radio waves was confirmed in 1888 by the German physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857–1894), but it was the Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi (1874–1937) who, in 1896, was the first to make long-distance radio transmissions. In 1909 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics (with German physicist Karl Braun) for his work. Radio soon became a hugely important technology in the 20th century. It is used for broadcasting radio and TV, phone links, computer networks, including internet, Wi-fi and Bluetooth, and for remote control of machines. 



James Clerk Maxwell

The discovery
of radio waves

In 1865, the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831–79) proposed the existence of electromagnetic waves. It was already known that a changing magnetic field generates an electric field. But Maxwell claimed that a changing magnetic field could also produce an electric field. A disturbance, either electric or magnetic, would set off a pattern of changing fields, moving across space as waves, like ripples in water. Maxwell proposed that the speed of movement of these electromagnetic waves was equal to the speed of light. Light, he suggested, was just another form of electromagnetic wave.

When Marconi died in 1937, all radio stations around the world observed a two-minute silence in tribute to him.

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