Guglielmo Marconi: 150 years of the Italian who made the world talk

Digital signals from ground-based automated probes lost in deep space. An image that illustrates the technological level that humanity has reached in just over a century, also thanks to the intuition and stubbornness of one of the greatest Italian scientists of all time: Guglielmo Marconi. And the celebrations of the physicist, 150 years since his birth, will begin today – after the Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinal and Archbishop of Bologna Matteo Zuppi – from where this all-Italian story began.

It was in fact September 1895 when, from his studio in Villa Griffone in the village of Praduro e Sasso (which later became Sasso Marconi in 1938 in honor of the Bologna physicist) at the foot of the Bologna hills, after many attempts, the young 21-year-old succeeded in the unthinkable: launch wireless signal by overcoming an obstacle. And from that moment on, nothing was the same. The young man was indeed Marconi. The device used by the Italian physicist has proven itself in communicating and receiving signals over a distance of more than a mile, but also in overcoming natural obstacles (the Celestini Hill behind the Villa Griffone). The rifle shot that Butler Mignani fires into the air to confirm the success of the experiment (the device vibrated three times and chirped like a cricket) is considered the radio’s baptism.

And it was from his home in Emilia (and from the exhibition dedicated to him at the headquarters of Radio Rai in via Asiago in Rome on his birthday) that the main celebrations of the 150th anniversary of his birth on April 25, 1874 (he later died on July 20, 1937) took place. The Nobel Prize in Physics (shared with Carl Ferdinand Braun) was awarded to him precisely for the discovery of radio waves in 1909, to which the world today owes the birth of radio, television, wireless and borderless communications, such as the signals still sent towards Earth by the Voyager probes, now for many years beyond the edge of our solar system and lost in deep space.

“I am happy that Italy has woken up and I am doing everything to cooperate in these celebrations,” explains Elettra Marconi, daughter of the Nobel laureate, born in 1930, who has a son Guglielmo in honor of her grandfather. . “My father’s greatest achievement? The ability to save many lives at sea using wireless communication. When he died, I was a child, I was only 7 years old – she says -. I remember how you played with me. He was very loving and intelligent. He made me talk, listened to my questions and treated me like an adult. I learned a lot from him. He was very creative. I remember when he was at work he could not be disturbed. But then it worked out and it was a joy. My father is my whole life.”

Among the many events planned for the three-year period 2024-2026, explains Giulia Fortunato, president of the Marconi Foundation and the Committee for the Celebrations of the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of the Great Italian Scientist, there will also be a stamp commemorative event, an international conference with Nobel laureate in physics Anne L’Huillier and director NASA by Mark Clampin and then multimedia shows, exhibitions and the Bologna Marconi Prize, the world’s most prestigious information and communication technology (ICT) award. And again collaboration with the National Science and Technology Museum of Leonardo da Vinci in Milan and the Leonardo Civiltà delle Macchine Foundation, the Rai miniseries broadcast in May with Stefano Accorsi and Nicolas Maupas and the Osaka Expo in Japan. Villa Griffone will receive a large loan for reconstruction: 200,000 euros for more urgent work, three million euros for restoration and site improvement. Funds that are added to another four million euros to create a museum dedicated to him at the Villa Aldini in Bologna, which talks about science and attracts international and tourist attention. And then there will also be collaborations with the Navy, Formula 1 and America’s Cup sailing, which will take place from September to October in Barcelona.

And what would Guglielmo Marconi think today about all the developments that this invention had, up to the Internet and global communication? Elettra says again, “He would like to, but some things are used negatively and he would definitely be very against it – Elettra replies – He wanted to save humanity, not destroy it. Even morally, you see what’s happening with cell phones, even with artificial intelligence. They are great things, but you have to be careful how you use them.’

Cinecittà will be actively involved in the creation of many tributes that will remember 150 years of Guglielmo Marconi, and unique materials from the historical archive of Luce will be expressed in different languages: video art, photography, cinema. Even with a coloring project of historical pictures of the inventor. Instead, on Saturday, April 27, starting at 8 a.m., the “Vatican Transmitter” (built specifically by Guglielmo Marconi in 1929 and activated for international shortwave traffic until 2006) will host a gala event where the Secretary for Relations with States and international organization Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications Paolo Ruffini, Secretary of the Dicastery for Communications Monsignor Lucio Adrian Ruiz, Head of Vatican Radio Massimiliano Menichetti, Director of Technological Leadership of the Dicastery for Communications Francesco Masci and Guglielmo Marconi’s daughter, Elettra. During the morning, the reconstruction of the Marconi building will be presented and a documentary will be shown Marconi in the Vatican.


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