The Invention of the Radio

The radio has been an important invention for so many people in the UK recently. During the lockdown, millions tuned into British radio stations for news updates and entertainment broadcasts. BBC Radio has especially taken special measures to provide a stimulating selection of broadcasts, trying to help vulnerable and isolated listeners to cope with loneliness.

Guglielmo Marconi

The first edition of radio was patented in 1896 by Guglielmo Marconi. Marconi was a pioneer of wireless telegraphy. Born in Italy in 1874, he began experimenting with his inventions at the age of 20 after becoming aware of the work of Hertz in electromagnetic waves, also known as radio waves. Marconi identified this area was not popularly pursued by other inventors at the time.

In July 1986 Marconi made the first demonstration of his invention, the radio transmitter and receiver, for the British government. In December 1901, Marconi successfully transmitted the first wireless telegraphy signals across the Atlantic Ocean. He was awarded the Nobel prize in physics in 1909.

The fourth generation of Marconi’s “Type A” microphones were used widely by the BBC from the 1930s onwards. The Type A came to symbolise the BBC.

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GB189612039A IMPROVEMENTS IN TRANSMITTING ELECTRICAL IMPULSES AND SIGNALS, AND IN APPARATUS THEREFOR.

Drawing attached to Marconi’s first patent, dated 1895

US1226099A TRANSMITTING APPARATUS FOR USE IN WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY AND TELEPHONY.

Drawing from Marconi’s 1917 patent.

The last transmitter patent by Marconi was published in 1920, likely the last application date was in 1919. In total, Marconi’s work on the radio transmitter spans almost 100 published patent documents improving his invention over 23 years.

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