The Wireless Telegraph, an article on early radio communication, from the April 9, 1899 New York Times

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The New York Times, April 9, 1899, p. 22:

THE WIRELESS TELEGRAPH.

Signor Marconi's Recent Experiments Prove It Practicable.

THE IDEA IS AN OLD ONE.

Clerk-Maxell Predicted All That Marconi Has Done--
Invention Will Prevent Sea Disasters.


(ASSOCIATED PRESS NIGHT REPORT.)

    Signor Guglielmo Marconi's successful experiment in sending messages across the English Channel without the aid of wires has astounded the world; but wireless telegraphy, like most other new things, has been known for some time before any practical application of it was possible.
    The theory and the law had both been carefully worked out before Marconi began dreaming of practical methods for utilizing electric waves. To the constructive genius of the young Italian, however, belongs the full credit for applying these laws and theories, while other scientists were still testing them to ascertain whether or not they had been really discovered and accurately classified.

    The science of wireless telegraphy, for it has become practically a new science, dates its birth from Michael Faraday, who first recognized the nature of the electric waves, or rather the true movement and play of electricity, although the "waves" were not known to him as such. Faraday said the electricity was the result of the play of atoms and molecules.

    This suggested to James Clerk-Maxwell, the great Scotch physicist who died in 1879, the similarity of light waves and electric waves. After experimenting, he came to the conclusion that they were of the same species and governed by similar laws. He concluded that the undulations or waves of electricity could be transmitted through air in the same manner as light, and with about the same rapidity...
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    The German scientist Heinrich Hertz, who died in 1894, was able to prove beyond question the correctness of the theory announced by Clerk-Maxwell. The verification of this theory, and the advances he made upon the laws discovered by Clerk-Maxwell, have warranted scientists in naming the electric undulations after him, as the "Hertzian waves."

WHERE MARCONI'S WORK BEGAN.

    It is with these waves that Marconi has been experimenting so successfully. The way had been blazed out, but no scientist had followed it far enough to justify the conclusion that the waves would ever be used for the practical transmission of messages without the aid of wire.

    Marconi took up where Clerk-Maxwell, Righi, Popoff, Sarasin, Branly, and a dozen others had left off or had just arrived. He acted upon the example of Haeckel, who, when he became a believer in evolution, said that he would not make it the conclusion of his life's study, but the starting point.

    Marconi saw where the study of the undulations had come to a stand, and he took up the investigations exactly at that point, and soon had perfected a system by which actual messages could be transmitted...

    Hertz had measured the waves, Branly and Ducretet had invented receivers for registering them, and the Russian savant Popoff had successfully sent messages by means of them as early as 1895, but it had not been thoroughly demonstrated tht the waves could be transmitted for a considerable distance, registered with ease, and easily read...

    Clerk-Maxwell showed that the light waves and the electric waves were subject to similar laws and both could be transmitted through and by means of the air or ether. Sir William Thompson showed that when a condenser was discharged by a dead wire oscillations of lessening intensity were produced, each series of oscillations followed by a period of rest. This proved that the discharge was oscillatory, and it was by this fact that the waves were accurately measured and brought within practical use. Federson verified this theory.

MEASURING THE WAVES.

    Sir William Thompson, while he had indicated the way to measure the waves, did not succeed in measuring them himself. The short period of the waves was so infinitesmally short that it defied measurement... Prof. A. Righi of Bologna, Italy, under whom Marconi studied, was able to measure more exactly the duration of the electric undulations...

    Hertz and Sarasin, in their experiments, made use of large metallic plates, on which the electric waves were reflected, as light waves are reflected in a mirror. It was estimated that the oscillations were as high as 100,000,000 a second. The result of these experiments showed the accuracy of previous calculations. They showed also that the phenomena were propogated with about the swiftness of light, and that they were transmissible in the same way and by the same means.

THE FIRST MESSAGES.

    In 1895 Popoff had succeeded in sending and registering a message. Righi had improved on his methods, and Marconi, in turn, improved on the methods of Righi. He introduced the use of the mast for increasing the length of the conductor, having discovered that the distance to which signals may be sent varies according to the square of the length of the conductor. His first notable success was in 1896, or one year after Popoff had demonstrated the practicability of transmitting messages without the use of wires.

    The French scientists claim precedence over Marconi in the practical use of the electric waves for transmitting messages. M. Rigaut, in an article in La Science Francaise of Feb. 24, says:

    "We have claimed for Mr. Branly the paternity of the essential feature in the receiving instrument--the coherer."

    The French office of telegraphy is now engaged in making experiments with the apparatus of MM. Branly and Ducretet. M. Rigaut, in the article referred to, describes the apparatus as follows:

    "The mast supports one end of an insulated conductor that floats in the air, while the other end communicates with the pole of an induction coil and one of the spheres of discharge. The other pole of the coil is connected with the other sphere and then with the earth. If the electric current passes through the coil, a discharge takes place between the two spheres, which constitute what is known as the oscillator. Thus we have a discontinuous and oscillatory electric discharge, or a source of electric waves.
    "From the free extremity of the insulated conductor fixed on the mast the waves radiate. This extremity may be terminated by a metallic surface that furnishes, with the conductor, the requisite electric capacity. This radiating conductor is, then, the transmitter. A spring key, as in the Morse transmitter, enables the operator to make the discharge short or long.

    "The receiver consists of a coherer, or tube filled with metallic filings, called by Branly a radioconductor, of a model invented by M. Ducretet. This is put in communication on one side with an insulated conductor of a second tall mast, and on the other side with the earth. The end of the insulated conductor is the collector of the electric waves.
    "On the other hand, the cohering tube is placed in the circuit of a battery and a very sensitive telegraphic relay. The battery current passes in the electro-magnet of the relay only when the electric waves, coming through space, traverse the coherer, causing it to become a conductor.

    "As in all kinds of telegraphy each station must have both a transmitting and a receiving instrument. A portable receiving instrument suffices for the reading of the Hertzian waves signals; and by connecting it with a registering apparatus the message may be printed on a band of paper."

    In Feburary the French scientists were experimenting with sending a message over a distance of about nineteen miles. Marconi had already transmitted a message over a distance of thirty-one miles...

    It was demonstrated by Hertz, Righi, Popoff, and Lodge that the transmission of these waves is more readily accomplished at sea level. It is for this reason that Marconi has done most of his experimenting on the coast. The French and Germans, on the other hand, have attempted, in the first place, to make use of the waves as a means of sending messages for the use of armies in the field.
    Last Autumn Marconi succeeded in sending a number of dispatches between Osborne, on the Isle of Wight, and the Prince of Wale's yacht, which was moving at a considerable distance at sea.

    After he had succeeded in a great number of experiments in England, he wanted to make a severer test of his apparatus, and asked permission of the French Government to establish a station on the coast near Calais, for the purpose of receiving and transmitting messages across the Channel. His request was denied until quite recently, when he was allowed to put up a station on the coast near Boulogne-sur-Mer.
    He erected his station on the English side of the Channel on the South Foreland, in the County of Kent. The distance between the two points is about thirty-two miles. The elevation afforded by the cliff and the mast was, on the English side, about 400 feet.
    The experiment proved successful, and The London Times printed a dispatch of 100 words that had been transmitted through the air, without the aid of wires.
    Marconi says that he could have sent a message ten miles further, or forty-two miles.

PREVENTS SEA COLLISIONS.

    André Broca, in a recent number of Revue Scientifique, points out that the greatest use to which the wireless telegraphy can now be put is to warn vessels at sea of the approach of other ships. He says that with transmitting and receiving instruments on each ship it will be almost impossible for collisions to occur.
    Another use to which it is already being applied is the similar one in lighthouses, in times of storm or atmospheric disturbances, or the intervention of fog or mists, when the light of the most powerful reflectors will not pierce the thick air, the electric waves will be used entirely for purposes of signaling out to sea to approaching ships.
    If these were the sole uses to which wireless telegraphy could be put it would still be one of the greatest and most beneficent discoveries of all time.
    It will also be largely used in field operations in sending and receiving dispatches and information. As pointed out, the French and Germans are now utilizing the waves for this purpose, and the Italians are using them on their warships for similar purposes.
    The waves can also be economically used for sending messages between points on land at not too remote distances, using the wires only for long distances, say beyond forty or fifty miles.

    Nikola Tesla, who experimented with the Hertzian electric waves as early as 1893, has called attention to the fact that the sending of messages over land may be made very uncertain, as the communications may be interrupted by placing an induction coil near one of the terminals. Marconi and the other scientists of Europe do not seem to fear this difficulty.
    Throughout Europe, indeed, there seems to be but one opinion of the results obtained by Marconi, and before him, by Hertz, Popoff, Righi, and others, and that is that a great advance in science has been made, and a revolution in the practical use of electricity has been brought about by a handful of students within the last decade.

    Mr. Tesla and Prof. Oliver Joseph Lodge of England were both making a series of experiments along lines that were later followed by Signor Marconi, and which had been followed earlier by Hertz, Righi, and Popoff, so that the so-called discovery or invention of Marconi is no new thing. The theory and the law were at least twenty-five years old when Marconi and Righi began their experiments.
    But the men who do something practical with scientific laws are generally credited by the world with their discovery. It is probably, therefore, that Hertz's name will be immortalized by the phrase Hertzian waves, and that Marconi will figure as the inventor of the system of wireless telegraphy. If it comes to a question of the discovery of the theory and law the palm will, in all likelihood, be awarded to James Clerk-Maxwell, who saw in vision everything that Popoff, Hertz, Righi, and Marconi have accomplished.
 
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