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Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World

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A little over a century ago the world went wireless. Cables and all their limiting inefficiencies gave way to a revolutionary means of transmitting news and information almost everywhere, instantaneously. By means of "Hertzian waves," as radio waves were initially known, ships could now make contact with other ships (saving lives, such as on the doomed R.M.S. Titanic); financial markets could coordinate with other financial markets, establishing the price of commodities and fixing exchange rates; military commanders could connect with the front lines, positioning artillery and directing troop movements. Suddenly and irrevocably, time and space telescoped beyond what had been thought imaginable. Someone had not only imagined this networked world but realized it: Guglielmo Marconi.

As Marc Raboy shows us in this enthralling and comprehensive biography, Marconi was the first truly global figure in modern communications. Born to an Italian father and an Irish mother, he was in many ways stateless, working his cosmopolitanism to advantage. Through a combination of skill, tenacity, luck, vision, and timing, Marconi popularized-and, more critically, patented-the use of radio waves. Soon after he burst into public view with a demonstration of his wireless apparatus in London at the age of 22 in 1896, he established his Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company and seemed unstoppable. He was decorated by the Czar of Russia, named an Italian Senator, knighted by King George V of England, and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics-all before the age of 40. Until his death in 1937, Marconi was at the heart of every major innovation in electronic communication, courted by powerful scientific, political, and financial interests, and trailed by the media, which recorded and published nearly every one of his utterances. He established stations and transmitters in every corner of the globe, from Newfoundland to Buenos Aires, Hawaii to Saint Petersburg.

Based on original research and unpublished archival materials in four countries and several languages, Raboy's book is the first to connect significant parts of Marconi's story, from his early days in Italy, to his groundbreaking experiments, to his protean role in world affairs. Raboy also explores Marconi's relationships with his wives, mistresses, and children, and examines in unsparing detail the last ten years of the inventor's life, when he returned to Italy and became a pillar of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime. Raboy's engrossing biography, which will stand as the authoritative work of its subject, proves that we still live in the world Marconi created.

Marc Raboy is Professor and Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University

Author: Raboy Marc
Pages: 872
ISBN: 9780190905934
Cover: Paperback
Edition Number: 1
Release Year: 2019

Prologue: Marconi in His Time and Ours

PART I The Prodigy
1 Bologna: Beginnings
2 Priority and Detractors
3 London: Start-up
4 The Magician
5 New York: New Frontiers
6 Love and Imperialism
7 The Upstart Technology
8 "The Great Thing"
9 Newfoundland: The World Shrinks
PART II The Player
10 Corralling the Brand
11 Regulation
12 Marriage
13 A Life in Litigation
14 The Marconi Aura
15 A New World Order
16 On the Way to Somewhere
17 The Perfect Laureate
PART III The Pat Riot
18 The Godsend
19 Signals of War
20 Wireless and Disaster
21 "The Marconi Scandal"
22 The Invisible Weapon
23 "L'eroe magico"
24 The Statesman
25 The Spark
PART IV The Outsider
26 The Master of the House
27 The Beam Indenture
28 Radio
29 The Merger
30 The Anchor
PART V The Conformist
31 A Servant of the Regime
32 Science and Fascism
33 "Your Every Wish Is My Command"
34 Controlling His Legacy
35 The Heritage
36 He Only Cared About Wireless . . .
Sources and Abbreviations


Marc Raboy is Professor and Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University

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