March 01, 2019

Making Waves

Making Waves
Popov, center, in 1895.

Every aspect of wireless communication pervading our modern world has one common ancestor: radio. Without it, there would be nothing: no internet, no cell phones, no broadcasting. In the annals of radio communication, fact is intertwined with fiction, and no one even remembers exactly what words were first officially spoken and transmitted over the air. However, we do remember the great “radio-war” – the fight over who was “first” in this groundbreaking field.

Did Popov invent the radio? Absolutely. Was he the only one to do so? Absolutely not. Yet it is not as if the controversy has not quieted down – it has. In fact, most experts agree: the radio is the result of the collective work of many researchers, engineers, and technicians.

Heinrich Hertz in Germany, Nikola Tesla in the United States, Oliver Lodge in England, Jagadish Chandra Bose in India – the list goes on. They are all considered founders of this new field, and they all have their own “cheerleaders.”  One name that is practically forgotten now is Nathan Stubblefield, a farmer from Kentucky who created a working wireless communication system as early as 1892. He was essentially a pauper when he died, and after his death it was discovered that no trace of his invention remained – none of his devices and technical drawings were found.

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