1901 __ First transatlantic transmission
‣ Comment : With the successes in using radio waves to cross the English channel Marconi turned his eyes towards greater distances and being able to send messages across the Atlantic. If he could succeed in this he would be able to use his system to send messages across the Atlantic more cheaply than using a cable, and also keep in contact with ships over vast distances. Marconi started this venture by setting up stations at Polhu in Cornwall England and Cape Cod in Massachussetts, USA. Storms destroyed the huge antennas at both sites, and Marconi rebuilt the antenna at Poldhu, but relocated the station from Cape Cod to a site in Newfoundland. However the letter "S" being transmitted by the station in England was just received although with great difficulty in Newfoundland on 12th December 1901. Nikola Tesla, unruffled by the accomplishment, explained that the Italian used 17 Tesla patents to accomplish the transmission. But Morgan began to doubt Tesla. Marconi's system not only worked, it was also inexpensive. (Ian Poole) — On the twelfth and thirteenth of December 1901, in St. John's, Newfoundland, Guglielmo Marconi received an "S ... S ... S ..." on the wireless. On the fourteenth, he called a press conference to announce a groundbreaking event in the history of communication: the transmission of wireless signals across the Atlantic Ocean. The messages were sent from a wireless station in Poldhu, a small town located at the southwest end of England. The signals were transmitted almost 2,000 miles, one-sixth of the earth's circumference. In spite of initial skepticism on the part of some famous British scientists and engineers, Marconi's announcement was welcomed and quickly accepted as true. Marconi became the hero who had spanned the Atlantic without cables. Although he could not have imagined it, our world is now saturated with radio waves, from television and GPS to cell phones, their messages traveling vast distances and binding us all in an invisible information network. A number of notable scientists and engineers joined Marconi in believing it possible for electromagnetic waves to travel over a wall of ocean, based on the current theories of the electron and ether, in which the electron was regarded as a "knot" of the electric strain in the ether. In this theoretical framework, the earth itself functioned as a sort of huge waveguide. However, it was not long before Marconi's idea of surface transmission was shown to be in error, for the electron was soon identified with real particles, and it was also shown that the earth could not guide waves as Marconi believed. We now know the electromagnetic waves that Marconi received in St. John's in 1901 did not get there by traveling along the surface of the earth, but by reflecting off the upper ionosphere (now known as the Heaviside-Kennelly layer). Marconi's achievement, based on the science of his time, was based upon a "big mistake.". (Sungook Hong)
‣ Source : Hong, Sungook (2005), “Marconi's error: the first transatlantic wireless telegraphy in 1901”, In Social Research : An International Quarterly of the Social Sciences, Vol. 72, Nr. 1, “Errors: Consequences of Big Mistakes in the Natural and Social Sciences”, Spring, 2005.
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