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Marconi was educated at the Technical Institute of Livorno and attended the University of Bologna. In 1890 he began experimenting with wireless telegraphy. The apparatus he used was based on the ideas of the German physicist, Heinrich Hertz. Marconi improved Hertz's design by earthing the transmitter and receiver, and found that an insulated aerial enabled him to increase the distance of transmission.
After patenting his wireless telegraphy system in 1896 he established the Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company in London. In 1898 Marconi successfully transmitted signals across the English Channel and in 1901 established communication with St. John's, Newfoundland, from Poldhu in Cornwall.
Other inventions by Marconi included the magnetic detector (1902), horizontal direction telegraphy (1905) and the continuous wave system (1912). He shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with Ferdinand Braun in 1909.
Marconi's system was adopted by the Royal Navy. During the First World War wireless telepathy was widely employed by wartime ground forces. Large naval vessels were fitted with radios, although when they were used, it did make it easier for enemy submarines to discover where they were. Reconnaissance aircraft that had enough power to carry wireless sets (they weighed 50kg) were able to communicate the position of enemy artillery.
After the war Marconi lived aboard his yacht Elettra, which served as a home, laboratory and receiving station. In the remaining years of his life he experimented with shortwaves and microwaves. Guglielmo Marconi, who was a strong supporter of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini, died in 1937.