Guglielmo Marconi, Italian physicist and radio pioneer, succeeded in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean. By doing so, he disproved detractors who believed that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less.
His all important record setting message? The Morse Code signal for the letter s. A little disappointing isn’t it. Eh, all in all, still impressive. The message did travel more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu, Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada.
Paradoxically, Marconi’s detractors were right. Radio waves could not follow the curvature of the earth. As it happened, Marconi’s transatlantic radio signal had been headed into space, but reflected off the ionosphere and bounced back down toward Canada.
More experiments were needed, and much about the laws of radio waves and the role of the atmosphere in radio transmissions still remained to be learned. However, Marconi continued to play a leading role in radio discoveries and innovations during the next 30 years.
In 1909, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with the German radio innovator Ferdinand Braun. On the day of his funeral in 1937, all BBC stations were silent for two minutes as a tribute to his contributions to the development of radio.