There are a number of candidates to the title of radio inventor. Several countries are claiming the title by appointing their own national hero.


The big question is, who invented radio? Was it one of those who discovered one or more of the principles on which radio communication was based, or the one who succeeded to establish a radio connection within a laboratory - based on those principles, or the one who made the first transatlantic radio telegraphy connection, or the one who made the first transatlantic radio telephony connection, or the one who was granted the first radiotelegraph patent, or the one who was granted the first radiotelephony patent, or the one who deployed radio communication for commercial use?

The inventor of radio may be a team rather than an individual. My only opinion in this case is the following:

When someone will involve you in a discussion about who invented radio, never present your own opinion. Just let the other person present his or her opinon. Your best comment shall be: You may be right!. In this manner you can avoid loosing a friend.

Guglielmo Marconi has many supporters. However, he based his conclusions on the findings of a long row of other scientists. He is far from being the obvious choice when it comes to appointing a single person as the inventor of radio.

Alexander Popov officially presented his findings at a Russian Physical and Chemical Society meeting on May 7, 1895. A working radio transmitter/receiver setup based on Popovs findings was publically demonstrated three months before Marconi's patent application, which was dated June 2nd, 1896. The Russians have, of course, appointed Popov as the inventor of radio but, as Marconi, he succeeded by basing his work on the earlier findings of others.

In 1832
Joseph Henry performed experiments detecting electromagnetic effects over a distance of 200 feet and postulated the existence of electromagnetic waves.

In 1840
Samuel Morse did patent a manual telegraphy alphabet which, partly by his associate Alfred Veil and partly by international efforts, was further improved and was approved as the "international alphabet" by an 1865 congress in Paris. In 1840, nobody could foresee the coming of radio telegraphy. Later, however, the Morse invention should become indispensable in supporting the development of useful communication by radio waves.

In 1846
Michael Faraday speculated that light was a wave disturbance in a force field.

In 1864
James Clerk Maxwell developed the theory of electromagnetism that predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves, which include radio waves.

In 1872
Mahlon Loomis received a patent for a "wireless telegraph". Patent utilizes atmospheric electricity to eliminate the overhead wire used by the existing telegraph systems.

In 1879
David E. Hughes transmitted signals which he attributed to electromagnetic waves, during experiments with his induction balance.

In 1886
Reginald Fessenden began working directly for Thomas Edison at the inventor's new laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. Fessenden quickly made major advances, especially in receiver design, as he worked to develop audio reception of signals. See also the year 1900, below.

In 1886 - 1888
Heinrich Rudolf Hertz transmitted and received radio waves over short distances in his UHF experiments, and showed that the properties of radio waves were consistent with Maxwell's electromagnetic theory.

In 1891
Nikola Tesla constructed various apparatus that produced between 15,000 to 18,000 cycles per second. Transmission and radiation of radio frequency energy was a feature exhibited in the experiments by Tesla which he proposed might be used for the telecommunication of information. Referring to a demonstration of Tesla's wireless equipment in 1893 the IEE said "the apparatus that he employed contained all the elements of spark and continuous wave that were incorporated into radio transmitters before the advent of the vacuum tube".

In 1894
Jagadish Chandra Bose, Indian physicist, demonstrated publicly the use of radio waves in Calcutta, but he was not interested in patenting his work.

In 1894
Oliver Joseph Lodge sent on 14th August 1894 a radio message in Morse code.

In 1894 - 1885
Alexander Stepanovich Popov conducted experiments along the lines of Hertz's research. In 1894-95 he built his first radio receiver, an improved version of coherer-based design by Oliver Lodge.

In May 1895 - March 1886
Alexander Stepanovich Popov presented his radio receiver to the Russian Physical and Chemical Society on May 7, 1895. The day has been celebrated in the Russian Federation as "Radio Day". It is frequently stated that Popov used his radio to send a Morse code message over a distance of 250 m on March 26th, 1896 (three months before Marconi's patent was filed).

In 1896
Lee de Forest developed the triode amplifier and the Audion tube.

In 1896
Guglielmo Marconi introduced to the public a device in London, asserting it was his invention. Despite Marconi's statements to the contrary, though, the apparatus resembles Tesla's descriptions in the widely translated articles. Marconi's later practical four-tuned system was pre-dated by N. Tesla, Oliver Lodge, and J. S. Stone. Marconi filed a patent on his radiotelegraphy system with the British Patent Office on June 2, 1896.

In 1897
Ferdinand Braun joined the line of wireless pioneers. His major contributions were the introduction of a closed tuned circuit in the generating part of the transmitter, and its separation from the radiating part (the antenna) by means of inductive coupling, and later on the usage of crystals for receiving purposes. He even got the Nobel Prize in 1909 for his work.

In 1899
Julio Cervera-Baviera was the first person to be granted a patent covering a radiotelephonic system in 1899.

In 1900
Reginald Fessenden was in 1900 working for the United States Weather Bureau where he evolved the heterodyne principle where two signals combined produce a third audible tone. While there, Fessenden, experimenting with a high-frequency spark transmitter, successfully transmitted speech on December 23, 1900 over a distance of about 1.6 kilometers (one mile), the first audio radio transmission.

 The below photos do represent the majority of candidates. Under the names you find the year of  the person's own findings as per above list. Hold your cursor over the picture, to see the full


line telegraphy patent





1886 and 1900


1891 and 1893




de Forest

radio telegraphy patent

1897 and
1909 Nobel Price

radio telephony patent

It does not seem fair to appoint Marconi as the inventor of radio. After all, about a dozen scientists had contributed to the development of radio communication, in advance of Marconi filing his radiotelegraph patent application in 1896. He might have been more greedy or far-seeing than others, who did not see the immediate need for a patent to protect the income from a future commercial deployment of their findings.

Marconi´s radio telegraphy patent, as such, could have been of little use for practical communication tasks. However, thanks to the telegraphy alphabet patented by Samuel Morse 56 years earlier, Marconi´s patent had a commercial value. The Morse alphabet had been improved several times, until it was approved as the "international telegraphy alphabet" for manual transmission, by The International Telegraphy Congress in Paris 1865.

The first radiotelephony patent, however, was not filed by Marcony. It was granted to Julio Cervera-Baviera in 1899.

Well, the fact is, I have no opinion as to the true inventor of radio. Go to Wikipedia and see if you can build an opinion of your own. There you will find links to pages describing the above candidates, as well as several others.

Sollentuna, 2011-04-10
Björn Odell

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