12
Dec
08

On This Day, 12-12-2008: Guglielmo Marconi

December 12, 1901

Marconi sends first Atlantic wireless transmission

Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message–simply the Morse-code signal for the letter “s”–traveled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada.

Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1874 to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Marconi studied physics and became interested in the transmission of radio waves after learning of the experiments of the German physicist Heinrich Hertz. He began his own experiments in Bologna beginning in 1894 and soon succeeded in sending a radio signal over a distance of 1.5 miles. Receiving little encouragement for his experiments in Italy, he went to England in 1896. He formed a wireless telegraph company and soon was sending transmissions from distances farther than 10 miles. In 1899, he succeeded in sending a transmission across the English Channel. That year, he also equipped two U.S. ships to report to New York newspapers on the progress of the America’s Cup yacht race. That successful endeavor aroused widespread interest in Marconi and his wireless company.

Marconi’s greatest achievement came on December 12, 1901, when he received a message sent from England at St. John’s, Newfoundland. The transatlantic transmission won him worldwide fame. Ironically, detractors of the project were correct when they declared that radio waves would not follow the curvature of the earth, as Marconi believed. In fact, Marconi’s transatlantic radio signal had been headed into space when it was reflected off the ionosphere and bounced back down toward Canada. Much remained to be learned about the laws of the radio wave and the role of the atmosphere in radio transmissions, and Marconi would continue to play a leading role in radio discoveries and innovations during the next three decades.

In 1909, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in physics with the German radio innovator Ferdinand Braun. After successfully sending radio transmissions from points as far away as England and Australia, Marconi turned his energy to experimenting with shorter, more powerful radio waves. He died in 1937, and on the day of his funeral all British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) stations were silent for two minutes in tribute to his contributions to the development of radio.

“Marconi sends first Atlantic wireless transmission.” 2008. The History Channel website. 12 Dec 2008, 07:07 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=7109.

On This Day

1787 – Pennsylvania became the second state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.

1792 – In Vienna, 22-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven received one of his first lessons in music composition from Franz Joseph Haydn.

1800 – Washington, DC, was established as the capital of the United States.

1870 – Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina became the first black lawmaker to be sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives.

1896 – Guglielmo Marconi gave the first public demonstration of radio at Toynbee Hall, London.

1915 – The first all-metal aircraft, the German Junkers J1, made its first flight.

1937 – Japanese aircraft sank the U.S. gunboat “Panay” on China’s Yangtze River. Japan apologized for the attack, and paid $2.2 million in reparations.

1951 – The U.S. Navy Department announced that the world’s first nuclear powered submarine would become the sixth ship to bear the name Nautilus.

1982 – 20,000 women encircled Greenham Common air base in Britain in protest against proposed cite of U.S. Cruise missiles there.

1995 – The U.S. Senate stopped a constitutional amendment giving Congress authority to outlaw flag burning and other forms of desecration against the American flag.

2000 – The U.S. Supreme Court found that the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court in the 2000 U.S. Presidential election was unconstitutional. U.S. Vice President Al Gore conceded the election to Texas Gov. George W. Bush the next day.

2001 – The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would implement minimum federal election standards and provide funding to help states modernize their voting systems.

December 12, 1929

Cattle pioneer Charles Goodnight dies

Charles Goodnight, co-founder of one of the most important southwestern cattle-drive trails, dies on this day. He was 93 years old.

Born in Illinois in 1836, Goodnight came to Texas with his family when he was nine years old, and he thrived in the rugged frontier environment. His skill as a frontiersman and scout won him a position as a regimental guide during the Civil War, and Goodnight became confident that he could blaze a trail across any landscape, no matter how rugged or desolate. By the time the war ended, Goodnight had also built up a herd of cattle on his ranch in Palo Pinto County, Texas, and he decided to combine his interest in ranching with his ability as a trailblazer. At the time, most Texas ranchers drove their herds north to the railheads in the cattle-towns of Kansas for shipment to the East, but Goodnight was convinced that he could make a better profit if he could find a path to drive his cattle to the growing beef markets in New Mexico and Colorado.

While buying provisions for his proposed drive, Goodnight met Oliver Loving, a cattleman who was already renowned for his frontier and livestock skills. Loving agreed that Goodnight’s idea was solid and the two men became partners. In 1866, they blazed a 500-mile route from Fort Belknap, Texas, to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, which became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Later extended north into Colorado, the Goodnight-Loving Trail became one of the most heavily used cattle trails in the Southwest. Though well utilized, it was a risky ride, since it passed through lands still dominated by small bands of hostile Indians. Loving was killed by Indians while planning a third trip on the trail, but Goodnight continued to use the route for three more years and in 1871 cleared a profit of $17,000.

In 1875, Goodnight blazed another cattle trail, this time from New Mexico to Colorado. But he had grown tired of the long and dangerous trail drives and increasingly focused his efforts on his new Colorado ranch. When the Colorado ranch failed, Goodnight transferred the remnants of his herd to the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle to make a fresh start. After convincing a wealthy Irishman to invest large amounts of capital into his new operation, Goodnight succeeded in building his new JA Ranch into one of the major Texas ranches of the day, eventually running more than 100,000 cattle and returning excellent profits. By the time he died, Goodnight had transformed himself from an intrepid trailblazer and cattle driver into one of the great cattle barons of the American West.

“Cattle pioneer Charles Goodnight dies,” The History Channel website, 2008, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4365 [accessed Dec 12, 2008]

On This Day, From the Wisconsin Historical Society: December 12

1804 – Michael Frank Born
On this date Michael Frank, noted education leader in Wisconsin, was born in New York. Michael moved to the Wisconsin Territory in 1839, settling in Kenosha. He was inspired by Horace Mann’s fight for free schooling in Massachusetts. Frank’s cause attracted many followers in Wisconsin and in April, 1845 he celebrated the approval of free schooling legislation. By the summer of 1845, Wisconsin had five free schools in operation. Wisconsin became one of the first of three states west of New England to offer free education. [Source: Badgers Saints and Sinners by Fred L. Holmes,  p. 78-92]

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