Fessenden - 100 Years of Radio

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Reginald A. Fessenden

Inventor of Radio Broadcasting

Reginald Fessenden became radio's first voice in Christmas 1906 when he broadcast from a makeshift studio in Brant Rock, just outside Boston, a program of Christmas messages and spiritual music to ships at sea. The Christmas Eve program (re-enacted) as recounted by Fessenden consisted of:

"... first a short speech by me saying what we were going to do, then some phonograph music.... Then came a violin solo by me ... which I sang one verse of, in addition to playing the violin, though the singing, of course, was not very good. Then came the Bible text, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will, and we finally wound up by wishing them a Merry Christmas and then saying that we proposed to broadcast again on New Year's Eve. "

As an inventor, Fessenden is credited with over 250 patents; but the Canadian and British government support for the Marconi system (finally completed and first heard by the public in 1919) left him virtually unknown. He is credited with inventing a myriad of devices including radio, metal teabags, radar and complex measuring tools, and as an author of books on ancient civilizations.

You can read more on the Invention of Wireless web site.

Reginald Fessenden was a brilliant mathematician and excelled quickly in academics. Being enamored with the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, Fessenden set out on a quest to develop communication without the restriction of wires - thusly “Wireless” as it was to be known later.

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Other Fessendenian Credits

Fessenden is responsible for the invention of the Coherer, Electrolytic Detector, condensers, antennas, alternators, insulators and transformers that will operate radio transmissions far greater than Marconi equipment. Guglielmo Marconi and Fessenden would be in competition most of their lives but in many humble opinions Fessenden’s gear was far superior as well as his science. Marconi believed radio waves traveled in a “Whiplash” method but Fessenden coined the phrase “”Continuous Wave” and “Heterodyne” which are terms still used in modern day radio devices.

Fessenden worked with some of the greatest men in history such as Tesla, Edison, Westinghouse, Carnege, J.P. Morgan and the list goes on. Sadly the Canadian government ignored Fessenden’s brilliance and he moved to United States and abroad for a great part of his life to pursue his work but his roots always brought him back to Chippawa. He invented microfische, tracer bullets, depth sounding (sonar), paging, television, turbo electric drive for ships, and so much more.He was also the Chief Engineer for the Toronto Power House at the foot of Niagara Falls which was the largest Hydro undertaking on the globe back in 1903.

Fessenden's first test voice transmission took place on December 21, 1906. Called wireless telephony, it is told in story and sound on This Old Radio Site. Fessenden's lab and broadcast tower in Brant Rock, Mass. were destroyed by high winds and sea gales. He fought for his title to his inventions and by 1927, he was finally awarded a settlement for his patent claims for radio.

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