July 4th, 2013
Episode 313 of 527 episodes
In the early 1860s the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell derived four equations which together describe the behaviour of electricity and magnetism. They predicted the existence of a previously unknown phenomenon: electromagnetic waves. These waves were first observed in the early 1880s, and over the next two decades a succession of scientists and engineers built increasingly elaborate devices to produce and detect them. Eventually this gave birth to a new technology: radio. The Italian Guglielmo Marconi is commonly described as the father of radio - but many other figures were involved in its development, and it was not him but a Canadian, Reginald Fessenden, who first succeeded in transmitting speech over the airwaves. Melvyn Bragg is joined by Simon Schaffer, Professor of the History of Science at the University of Cambridge; Elizabeth Bruton, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Leeds and John Liffen, Curator of Communications at the Science Museum, London.