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Marconi, Guglielmo (1874–1937)

Guglielmo Marconi
Italian inventor and physicist, awarded (with K. F. Braun) the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics for his achievements. On learning of Hertzian waves (radio waves) in 1894, he set to work to devise a wireless telegraph. By the following year he could transmit and receive signals at distances of about 2 km. He went to the UK to make further developments, and in 1899 succeeded in sending a signal across the English Channel. On Dec. 12, 1901 in St. John's, Newfoundland, he successfully received a signal sent from Poldhu, Cornwall, thus heralding the dawn of transatlantic radio communication.

For several years, Marconi involved with the possibility of radio communication with extraterrestrial intelligence. His first public comments on the subject appeared on the front page of The New York Times on January 20, 1919, under the headline "Radio to Stars, Marconi's Hope." Marconi expressed his belief that there may be many inhabited worlds, that mathematics might serve as a common language of communication (see mathematics as a universal language), and that unexplained signals he had detected might have been sent by intelligent beings in space. A year later the Daily Mail in London reported that Marconi had found "very queer sounds and indications, which might come from somewhere outside the Earth," including Morse code. Subsequently, The New York Times followed up the story, stimulating comments from a number of scientists and engineers around the world. Although Marconi said nothing more on the subject, the possibility of radio communication with extraterrestrials created much public excitement at the coming close opposition of Mars in 1924. By this time, most professional astronomers agreed that there was little chance of finding advanced martians. But one who had not yet given up hope of making contact with the inhabitants of the Red Planet was David P. Todd.

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