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The life of Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi was born at Bologna, Italy, on April 25, 1874.

Marconi wasn't too successful in school as a child, so his parents hired private teachers to tutor him at home. He was taught chemistry, math, and physics. Marconi mentioned that his most memorable mentor was a high school physics teacher called Vincenzo Rosa. From a young age Marconi took a keen interest in physical and electrical science and studied the works of Maxwell, Hertz, Righi and many others.

In the early 1890s, he began working on the idea of wireless telegraphy (the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires) and by 1895 he began experimenting at his father's country estate where he succeeded in sending wireless signals over a distance of one and a half miles.

He travelled to England in 1896 and demonstrated his system successfully in London, on Salisbury Plain and across the Bristol Channel, and in July 1897 he started up 'The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company Limited' which was later re-named 'Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Limited'.

In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi succeeded in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving theories that the curvature of the earth would limit the transmission to 200 miles or less. The message simply contained the Morse code signal for the letter 's' and travelled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall to Newfoundland in Canada and won him worldwide fame and a Nobel Prize in physics in 1909.

Thanks to his incredible discoveries, Marconi was one of a group of leading wireless manufacturers who helped form the BBC on 18 October 1922. And on that subject, a special 50p coin is being released to celebrate 100 years of the BBC, find out more about it here.

In 1931 Marconi began research into shorter waves, resulting in the opening in 1932 of the world’s first microwave radiotelephone link between the Vatican City and the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Two years later, he demonstrated his microwave radio beacon for ship navigation and in 1935 in Italy, gave a practical demonstration of the principles of radar, the coming of which he had first foretold in a lecture to the American Institute of Radio Engineers in New York in 1922.

While helping to develop microwave technology, Marconi suffered a total of nine heart attacks in the span of three years before his death. Marconi died in Rome on 20 July 1937 aged 63, following the ninth, fatal heart attack.

It is fair to say that Guglielmo Marconi's love for science has impacted all of our lives without us even realising, which is why it is an honour to be able to add a coin celebrating his discoveries, to our collection. Take a look at this remarkable coin here.

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