Did you know that a German threatened to shoot Marconi for invented the radio?

(People feared radio waves when it was first invented. They complained of headaches and damaged nerves from the waves passing through them. Inventor Marconi even received death threats from people who claimed nerve damage. This controversy continues today with the advent of cell phones and electricity. )

Guglielmo Marconi

The Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi who is credited by most history books as inventing the radio, received many death threats after he gained international fame.

Guglielmo Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi, was an Italian inventor and electrical engineer, known for his pioneering work on long-distance radio transmission and for his development of Marconi’s law and a radio telegraph system. Most history books credit Marconi as the inventor of radio, but this credit may not be accurate.

Marconi had an interest in electricity and science

During his early years, Marconi had an interest in science and electricity. One of the scientific developments during this era came from Heinrich Hertz, who, beginning in 1888, demonstrated that one could produce and detect electromagnetic radiation—now generally known as radio waves, at the time more commonly called “Hertzian waves” or “aetheric waves”.

Heinrich Hertz

Heinrich Hertz, radio inventor

Hertz died in 1894

Hertz’s death in 1894 brought published reviews of his earlier discoveries and a renewed interest on the part of Marconi. He was permitted to briefly study the subject under Augusto Righi, a University of Bologna physicist and neighbor of Marconi who had done research on Hertz’s work.

Marconi went to London in 1896

Finding little interest or appreciation for his work in Italy, Marconi traveled to London in early 1896 at the age of 21, accompanied by his mother, to seek support for his work; Marconi spoke fluent English in addition to Italian.

Guglielmo Marconi ca. 1915 Bain News Service

G. Marconi ca. 1915 Bain News Service

Case was full of contraptions

Marconi arrived at Dover and at Customs the Customs officer opened his case to find various contraptions and apparatus. The customs officer immediately contacted the Admiralty in London. While there, Marconi gained the interest and support of William Preece, the Chief Electrical Engineer of the British Post Office.

Marconi transmitted Morse code 1897

A series of demonstrations for the British government followed—by March 1897, Marconi had transmitted Morse code signals over a distance of about 6 kilometers across Salisbury Plain. On 13 May 1897, Marconi sent the world’s first ever wireless communication over open sea.

The experiment, based in Wales, witnessed a message transversed over the Bristol Channel from Flat Holm island to Lavernock Point in Penarth, a distance of 6 kilometer. The message read “Are you ready”.

Marconi operator aboard ship “Grosserkorfurst”, at his instrumentsMarconi operator aboard ship Grosserkorfurst, at his instruments

Nikola Tesla filed radio patent 1897

Another inventor, Nikola Tesla filed his basic radio patent applications in 1897. They were granted in 1900. Marconi’s first patent application in America, filed on November 10, 1900, was turned down.

Marconi’s revised applications over the next three years were repeatedly rejected because of the priority of Tesla and other inventors. On December 12, 1901, Marconi for the first time transmitted and received signals across the Atlantic Ocean.

Nicola Tesla by Bain News Service

Nicola Tesla

A German threatens to shoot Marconi.

Numerous additional demonstrations by Marconi followed, and he began to receive international attention. He also began getting letters from people complaining bitterly that the electrical waves were passing through their bodies, destroying their nerves and making it impossible to sleep. Several letter writers threatened to kill Marconi. The most severe threat came from a German who lived in London who said he was coming to shoot him.  A German said he was coming to London to shoot him. The letter was turned over to Scotland Yard and the British Government wouldn’t let him land in England.

U. S. Patent Office reverses its decisions

In 1904, the U.S. Patent Office suddenly and surprisingly reversed its previous decisions and gave Marconi a patent for the invention of the  radio. The reasons for this have never been fully explained, but the powerful financial backing for Marconi in the United States suggests one possible explanation.

In 1911 the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Braun “in recognition of their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”.

Tesla sued Marconi

Tesla was furious. He sued the Marconi Company for infringement in 1915, but was in no financial condition to litigate a case against a major corporation. It wasn’t until 1943—a few months after Tesla’s death— that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Tesla’s radio patent number 645,576.

http://nikolateslaenergy.com/digi – Nikola Tesla Invention Official Website

Marconi sued the United States

The Court had a selfish reason for doing so. The Marconi Company was suing the United States Government for use of its patents in World War I. The Court simply avoided the action by restoring the priority of Tesla’s patent over Marconi. Today, the argument over who actually invented the radio continues.


(There is much confusion about the inventor of the radio. Who do you think should be given credit?)


Ribbon of Love: A Novel of Colonial America (Tapestry of Love) (Volume 1)  Actual court records dating back to the early 1630’s create historical accuracy as the reader is taken back to the primitive days of colonial America where the Pattendens encounter life-changing difficulties with Indians, ducking stools, illness, massacres, death, loneliness, love, and greed.

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She cohost the Podcast: Alabama Grist Mill and developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me

All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

She has authored numerous genealogy books.
RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE)
is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2)
is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series)
Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1)
is the continuation of the story. .

For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

One Response to Did you know that a German threatened to shoot Marconi for invented the radio?

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