Author highlights how Marconi ‘shrank’ the world

Author Marc Raboy, left, discusses Guglielmo Marconi’s lasting communications legacy with the Ontario Science Centre’s Kevin Von Appen.

The year was 1912. On April 15, the sinking RMS Titanic sent out distress signals received by nearby ships. While more than 1,500 died in the sinking, during the next few hours on the North Atlantic, rescue ships picked up more than 700 survivors. Marc Raboy believes there was an upside to the disaster.

“(It) really opened the imagination to the importance of wireless communication,” he said. He credits wireless radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi.

“The world would never be the same again,” Raboy said. “We now had the capacity to do long distance communication.”

On March 4, Marc Raboy, author and professor at McGill University, spoke to an audience at the Ontario Science Centre in East York. The event included a presentation of Raboy’s book Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World.

While introducing Raboy and his biography of Marconi, Kevin Von Appen, director of public relations as the centre, praised Marconi’s influence and “dominance” in the area of wireless communication. More than just an inventor, he was also a venerable scientist and entrepreneur, he said.

Raboy, who teaches communication studies, said Marconi was a well-known figure across the globe.

“He was followed by paparazzi wherever he went,” Raboy said.

The McGill professor added that the media’s fascination with the inventor was justified. In 1901, Marconi successfully sent a wireless signal across the Atlantic, from the west coast of England to St. John’s, N.L. Observers considered the triumphant experiment the precursor to the commercialization of wireless telegraph and a vital step toward “shrinking” the planet.

For his contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy, Marconi, along with Karl Ferdinand Braun, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909.

Raboy pointed out that Canada was quick to embrace Marconi’s wireless wonder. For his part, Marconi founded a wireless communication company with the government’s full support, which later become the country’s first radio broadcaster in 1919.

Von Appen also noted that observers can draw a direct line from contemporary smartphones to “the thinking, invention, and drive” of the great inventor.

Indeed, according the Raboy, before Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerbeg, there was Guglielmo Marconi.

“We’re living in Marconi world,” Von Appen said.