Reginald Fessenden

Reginald Fessenden Canadian inventor of radio and wireless telephone

Reginald Fessenden father of radioWhen asked who invented radio, many names will get tossed out. Starting my career in communications, a name most often mentioned as the inventor of radio was Marconi.  Searching on the internet a name often mentioned in the invention of radio is Nikola Tesla. Many of the wild claims gave me the drive to dig deeper and to seek the truth. After doing quite a bit of research It was obvious that without a doubt, Reginald Fessenden did more to develop radio that either Marconi or Tesla.

Ironically, the early career of Fessenden sounded similar to Tesla. Reginald Fessenden started his career with Thomas Edison, but later teamed up with George Westinghouse to defeat Edison in the famous "War of Currents. 

Born on October 6, 1866 in East Bolton, Quebec, Canada, Reginald Fessenden was an accomplished student of mathematics While he was only a teenager, Fessenden was teaching mathematics to the young children at his school.

After working for two years as the principal, and sole teacher, at the Whitney Institute in Bermuda, Fessenden moved to New York City with the dream of working for Thomas Edison.

Fessenden works for Edison

Initially Fessenden asked Edison for a job as a junior technician, but Edison was looking for a chemist.  Edison asked Fessenden "Do you know anything about chemistry?" Fessenden honestly answered "But I am not a chemist..." , Edison told Fessenden to learn the job because he needed a good chemist.  Fessenden worked as a chemist developing insulation for electrical wires at Thomas Edison's laboratory, East Orange, New Jersey, from 1887-1890. Fessenden eventually held the title of head chemist for Edison.

In 1890, Edison encountered financial difficulties, and Fessenden was laid off.  Although some sources state that Fessenden was lured away from Edison, most state that Fessenden was laid off from Edison's lab. The biography of Fessenden by his widow confirms that in 1890, "owing to financial difficulties and the reorganization of the Edison Companies, substantially the whole laboratory was shut down."

Crossing paths with George Westinghouse

Geekhistory explores who invented radio

Who invented radioAnswering the question of "who invented radio" is another example of the complexities of defining inventors of inventions. There is no one "eureka" moment where a lone inventor in a lab created something totally new that changed everything.  Radio was an ongoing evolution of an idea over time. It is not as simple as picking out a single individual, or even a single point in time, that was the turning point in the creation of radio.

I started my career in technology in the 1970s working on military communications and citizens band radios. As I studied technology I remember Guglielmo Marconi was often mentioned as the "father of radio." Over time I have come to realize that Marconi is one of many contributions to the technology of radio.

What makes that task even more difficult with radio is that the term itself does not define a simple single item.

When I say radio, do you think of music broadcast over the airwaves? When I say wireless do you think of voice communications?

The concept of radio continues to evolve. In the early half of the 21st century the term wireless could be used to describe a short-range computer networking system, with technologies such as Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN), Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The term wireless is also applied to a mobile telephone system.

The concept of radio started as  the transmission of telegraph messages without connecting wires.  The etymology of "radio" or "radiotelegraphy" reveals that it was called "wireless telegraphy" which was later shortened to "wireless."   

Radio visionaries

Michael Faraday is best known for his work regarding electricity and magnetism. Faraday began his great series of experiments in 1831 on the concepts of electromagnetic induction. 

James Clerk Maxwell introduced the concept of electromagnetic field in the 1860s. Based on the earlier experimental work of Faraday and other scientists and on his own modification to Ampere's law, James Clerk Maxwell developed his theory of electromagnetism, which predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz conduct a series of experiments between 1886 and 1889 that validated Maxwell's theory.  The unit of frequency, cycle per second, was named the "hertz" in his honor.

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