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1892 __ Wireless telephony (AM — Amplitude Modulation)
Natham B. Stubblefield (1860-1928)
Comment : Natham B. Stubblefield astonishes his hometown neighbors of Murray, Kentucky, by transmitting the human voice over his "wireless telephony," actually amplitude modulation, or AM. This alleged feat has been questioned by many sources, including the Kentucky Association of Broadcasters since it is believed that he used induction fields rather than radio waves. (Carlos A. Altgelt)In 1892, ignorant of the wireless inventions of the past 60 years, Nathan creates an electromagnetic induction wireless telephone and demonstrates it to his friend Rainey Wells. A few years later, Nathan develops a superior wireless telephone that uses natural conduction through the earth and water. Stubblefield was experimenting with ground radio since 1882, but did not patent his developments until much later. Credible witnesses saw his ground radio experiments in action during this time frame, establishing the historical priority of Stubblefield. While Marconi could barely send telegraphic "dots and dash" signals with great difficulty through a static-filled medium, Nathan Stubblefield had already transmitted the human voice with loud, velvet clarity. Others would adopt and implement the Collins system (Fessenden, DeForest, Bethenod, Braun), but none could duplicate the Stubblefield System. Following all these ground radio demonstrations, Stubblefield researched "Magnetic Waves" and developed several systems which did not use ground terminals for exchanging signals. Long distance wireless telephone communications were his aim. Many imagined this to be radio as we know it, but several features of Stubblefield aerial are distinctive and different. First his transmitters and receivers were telephonic, not telegraphic. In his preliminary experiments, the earth battery was used to energize an apparatus to which was connected a long horizontal aerial line. Marconi later adopted this "bent L" symmetry in conjunction with a grounded copper conduction screen. There are no photographs of these arrays, but I have hand-written manuscript copies of certain diary notes in which a progressively greater telephonic distance is reported. Nathan Stubblefield made steady progress in this form of telephonic transmission, but used neither alternators nor spark discharge. Mr. Stubblefield reasoned that, since electrical waves traverse the whole earth, it might be possible to send signals to distant places. These ground-permeating natural electrical waves might serve as carriers for the human voice. The ground would act as both power generator and signal conductor. Like a gale carrying messages downwind, these electrical waves could bring wireless communications instantly to any part of the world. These transmissions were made through the ground itself and used the Stubblefield cell for power. In several photographs we see special loud speaking telephones outfitted with (1 foot) horns, designed to act as annunciators. Calls from these annunciators brought his son Bernard to the telephone transmitter. The system was never switched off. Power was limitless and did not diminish with time of the day or length of use. (John Bedini)An eccentric inventor in backwoods Kentucky is thought by some to have been the fist to transmit the human voice from one point to another without wires. Nathan Stubblefield claimed to have made a transmission in 1892. He gave no public demonstration, however, until Jan. 1, 1902, in his home town of Murray, Ky. Witnesses said voices and music were sent through the air. On March 30, 1928, Nathan Stubblefield was found dead in the shack where he had lived alone, apparently the victim of starvation. (“Many Claims Have Been Made, But Radio's Paternity Is Still a Question”, Broadcasting, Nov. 2, 1970)To put this into a time perspective, Stubblefield was probably working on his concepts about the same time that Alexander Graham Bell was developing the telephone (patented 1876), and the formulas relating to radio waves published by Maxwell in 1865 and 1873. In 1888, Hertz proved that radio waves existed. Marconi's early telegraphic experiments were in 1894, with his radio telegraph device patent issued in June, 1896. Marconi's first telegraph transmission across the Atlantic took place in December of 1901. With this in mind, know that Stubblefield had success transmitting the human voice over what he called a Vibrating Telephone, a wireless circuit in 1885! Not long after this experiment, he told a local friend, Duncan Holt, "Duncan, I've done it. I've been able to talk without wires. . . all of two hundred yards. . . and it will work anywhere." Holt never saw the apparatus, however. The first record of anybody actually seeing Stubblefield's wireless apparatus was in 1892. He showed it to Dr. Rainey T. Wells, Who was a prominent educator, and who also happened to be an attorney. Wells Wrote of this years later, "One day Stubblefield invited me to his farm for a demonstration of some kind of wireless outfit. Mind you, this was in the days when telephones were rare. He had a shack about four feet square near his house, from which he took an ordinary telephone receiver such as we have today, but entirely without wires. Handing me this, he asked me to walk some distance away and listen. I had already reached my post which happened to be in an apple orchard when I heard, 'Hello, Rainey' come booming out of the receiver. I jumped a foot and said to myself, 'This fellow is fooling me. He has wires someplace.' I moved to the side about twenty feet but all the while he kept talking to me. I talked back and he answered me as a human voice sounds over a telephone today. But there were no wires." Sometimes, after that, he would allow certain carefully selected persons to witness private demonstrations of his system. Stubblefield's family physician told of being given a private demonstration that included Nathan talking and playing the harmonica. Also, in 1892, he began giving public demonstrations of his apparatus in the Murray town square. Hundreds of people came from miles around to watch as Stubblefield set up one set near the courthouse, and the other set about 250 feet away without any wires between the devices. The crowd startled at watching Stubblefield speak into one unit in a normal tone of voice, and hearing his voice emerge clearly from the distant apparatus. Perhaps these people scarcely realized the significance of Stubblefield's device. But remember, that he was considered by local residents as merely the strange and eccentric inventor who lived on the outskirts of town. They didn't know what to make of Stubblefield. It's doubtful that they took him very seriously, or his invention either. That didn't discourage Stubblefield at all. In March of 1902, Stubblefield loaded his wireless telephone aboard the steam launch Bartholdi on the Potomac River. As the vessel made its way up river from Washington, Stubblefield showed his radio at work by transmitting his voice to a group of scientists standing on the bank of the river. The prestigious Washington Post quickly recognized that the reclusive inventor had developed something their readers would like to know more about. On March 21, 1902, the newspaper published an interview containing just about the only words Stubblefield ever had to divulge to the public regarding his device. He still wasn't divulging much, but it was amazingly perceptive, and more than he had said until then. "My invention is capable of sending simultaneous messages from a central distribution station over a very wide territory. For instance, anyone having a receiving instrument, which would consist merely of a telephone receiver and a few feet of wire, and a signaling gong could, upon being signaled by a transmitting station . . . be informed of weather news. My apparatus is capable of sending out a gong signal as well as voice messages. Eventually it will be used for the general transmission of news of every description. I have as yet devised no method whereby it can be used with privacy. Wherever there is a receiving station, the signal and the receiving message may be heard simultaneously. Eventually I, or someone, will discover a method of tuning the transmitting and receiving instruments so that each will answer its own mate. The system can be developed until messages by voice can be sent and heard all over the country, to Europe, all over the world." This didn't tell anything of the theory or design of his device, which he was reticent to discuss. His son, Bernard, who was born around 1890, was perhaps the only person ever to be present when he was working. In 1930, after Stubblefield's death two years earlier, The New York Sun offered a vague description of the apparatus. "His transmitting apparatus was placed in a box four feet high and six inches in width. A coil of heavy wire was at one end and led to the ground. Stubblefield made the startling statement that the earth's electrical waves furnished the power by which an ordinary power transmitter was operated. About a quarter of a mile away another box was fastened to a stump. There were wires leading to the ground and a pair of telephone receivers on top. Examination showed that the wires terminated in each case at steel rods topped with a ball of iron which was nickel-plated. Stubblefield claimed that the earth and all about it is charged with electrical power, part of which he was harnessing--and that in time spoken messages could be sent without wires thousands of miles. He admitted that he had developed a radio-frequency current through a battery of his own arrangement, and an earth battery, following which he devised a system of modulation and an adjustment for tuning. The detector was a receiving coil, tapped for adjustable inductance.". (Josh Morgan, KKY4WS, “Did Nathan B. Stubblefield Invent Radio? Why Do People Insist That He, Not Marconi, Invented Radio?”, in Popular Communications in August 1991)
Source : Munro, John (1891), “Heroes of the Telegraph”, Published by BiblioBazaar, 2008; and Published by Icon Group International Inc (Webster’s French Thesaurus Edition).
Urls : http://www.icehouse.net/john34/stubblefield.html (last visited ) http://www.nrcdxas.org/articles/who1st.txt (last visited ) http://jeff560.tripod.com/am9.html (last visited )

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