The Work of Wizards:
Radio Goes to Sea 
Marconi's wireless system was based on the work of many earlier scientists, including Ampere, Faraday, Morse, Edison, Loomis, and Branley. Inspired by Rudolph Hertz, who first demonstrated the existence of electro-magnetic waves and showed that they could be detected at a distance, Marconi developed practical methods to generate and detect "Hertzian Waves." He applied Morse code to his new system, and set up a business to develop and market it. The Marconi company monopolized the world radio market for two decades.


Above: Marconi transmitted news of the America's cup yacht race of 1899 and gained widespread publicity for the new spark-gap technology. Photo courtesy Mechanic's Institute.
The earliest Marconi wireless radio was a coil of wire which amplified an electrical spark to jump a gap between two conductors. The spark was controlled by a telegraph key and the current routed out through an antenna. The waves generated by this spark could be detected about 300 miles away. Using Morse telegraph code, words could be spelled out for the first time and ships were able to communicate considerable distances. Above: A pre-1919 shipboard radio room with a quench-gap spark transmitter. Photo courtesy California State Library, S.O.W.P. Collection.