1900: Canadian makes first wireless radio transmission
On a summer's day in 1927, Canadians coast to coast sat enthralled before their radio sets as Prime Minister Mackenzie King spoke to them from Parliament Hill. Through the 1930s radio kept them entertained, and in wartime radio kept them informed. Then, Canadians were captivated all over again by television. In 1952 a bald puppet named Uncle Chichimus ushered them into the TV age, and in 1966 an animated butterfly made Canadian TV a more colourful pace.
But these holiday broadcasts were not the first time Fessenden transmitted a voice electronically. The inventor originally sent a radio transmission six years earlier. On Dec. 23, 1900, Fessenden transmitted a broadcast by wireless telegraph between two towers on a site near Washington, D.C. His contemporary, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, claimed to have sent an even earlier wireless telegraph in 1895.
In this television clip, CBC debates whether it was Canada's Fessenden or the Italian Marconi who invented radio transmission.
• As a teaching assistant at Quebec's Bishop's College, Fessenden researched scientific theories. He later moved to Bermuda to teach, while conducting experiments on the side.
• Fessenden got a break while working in New York as a cable tester for the Thomas Edison Company.
• Edison noticed Fessenden and offered him a job in his lab where he worked for seven years. Fessenden also worked with George Westinghouse.
• As a young boy, Fessenden was inspired by Alexander Graham Bell when he got to watch the famous inventor demonstrate his telephone.
• In 1895, Guglielmo Marconi, an inventor born in Bologna, Italy, sent a radio transmission by wireless telegraphy. It travelled one and a half miles on a system he patented a year later in England.
• Marconi's first transatlantic broadcast was in 1901 from Cornwall, England to St. John's, Nfld.
• Telegraphy is an interrupted electrical message transmission by wire, while telephony transmits two-way speech.
• Radio's transmission is wireless by means of a current or a "continuous wave." Fessenden was the first to identify the continuous wave effect. A New York Herald-Tribune editorial lauded him for this: "Marconi and others insisted that what was happening was a whiplash effect... [cont'd]
• [cont'd from last panel]"...The progress of radio was retarded a couple of decades by this error. The whiplash theory passed gradually from the minds of men and was replaced by the continuous wave -- one with all too little credit to the man who had been right."
• Doubt about Fessenden inventing radio transmission is cast in this TV clip by host Harry Brown. He suggests that because "radio" is an Italian word, Marconi might be the more likely inventor.
• According to the Webster New Third International Dictionary, the etymology of radio is from the Latin radius meaning a measurement of a circle equal to the distance between a point on the circle and its centre.
• During Fessenden's 1906 New Year's Eve radio broadcast, he received response signals from as far away as the West Indies.
• In the several years after the New Year's Eve broadcast, Fessenden earned patents for his inventions related to radio broadcast.
• In 1916 Marconi bought out Fessenden's patents because his original system did not function properly for transmitting voices. Realizing Fessenden's patents would be an obstacle to his progress, Marconi paid $250,000 in the deal.
• The deal meant Fessenden and his wife were set for life. Fessenden went on to invent the Fathometre, a submarine detection device useful in the First World War, before his death in 1932.
Also on December 23:
• 1859: The "Nor' Wester" becomes the first newspaper published in the Prairies out of Winnipeg.
• 1969: John Lennon and Yoko Ono meet Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Ottawa, as part of their peace campaign.
• 1983: Jeanne Sauvé is appointed Canada's first woman Governor General.
Program: Take 30
Broadcast Date: Oct. 16, 1979
Guest(s): Ray Ireland
Host: Harry Brown, Hana Gartner
Last updated: November 14, 2012
Page consulted on November 20, 2012
All Clips from this Topic
Canada sends out holiday greetings to the British Empire in 1932.
Leonard Brockington, chairman of CBC, opens CBA radio outside Sackvill...
Radio may be an international problem during the Second World War.
A CBC Radio technician pioneers a method for capturing the sounds of t...
Millions of dollars have been spent developing TV in the United States...
BBC, CBS and the United Nations congratulate CBC as Canada enters the ...
New technology linking CBC stations means all Canadians can finally wa...
A CTV executive talks about the potential for competition with the CBC...
Public-radio champions Graham Spry and Alan Plaunt rouse support for a...
Radio veterans recall the triumphs and challenges of broadcasting from...
CBC Radio gambles and wins big on an innovative prime-time program.
CBC Radio reporter Bob Bowman shares his memories of Canadian radio be...
Radio pioneers remember primitive studios and build-it-yourself radios...
A creative, keen young staff brings a "loose, wide-open feel" to CBC T...
From Signal Hill to Parliament Hill, radio's presence in Canada evolve...
TV broadcasts now come in all shades of the rainbow, but colour TV set...
Elettra Marconi, daughter of the inventor, visits Newfoundland for Mar...
On a summer's day in 1927, Canadians coast to coast sat enthralled bef...
On September 8, 1952, CBC Television first flickers to life.
CBC Chairman Leonard Brockington tells listeners about the challenges ...