From Publishers Weekly
Dapper, aristocratic Guglielmo Marconi doesn't fit the typical inventor stereotype: he lacked wild hair, wasn't absentminded, wore debonair-looking hats and frequently wooed women when traveling by ship. Yet Marconi's aptitude for technology led him to become the father of wireless telegraphy and radio. Born in 1874 to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Marconi was always fascinated by the nascent technology of electricity and, as a young man, was struck by the idea that he could transmit telegraph messages-then carried by cables-through the air. At a crowded London meeting hall in 1896, he made a dramatic public demonstration of his idea by sending a current from one innocuous-looking box to a receiver he carried around the hall with him, causing it to ring: "No messages were being sent at all-just an invisible electronic signal. But in 1896 that was sensational enough," writes documentary filmmaker and journalist Weightman. Like many other great inventions, wireless was being pursued at the same time by a number of different inventors, including some shameless charlatans-some of whom, like the delightfully crooked Abraham White, give Weightman's dry book some desperately needed spark-and a great deal of Weightman's text is about the juggling for position among the inventors and their respective companies around the turn of the century. Although Weightman has his hands on an extremely exciting subject, there is precious little life to his writing, and even exciting episodes, like the sending of an early type of wireless distress signal from the sinking Titanic, fail to engage. Photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Guglielmo Marconi invented the best radio equipment in the technology's infancy a century ago. He made a fortune, cruised among queens of England and kings of Italy, and died an acolyte of Mussolini. Weightman ably chronicles Marconi's life in the context of his urgency to perfect radio transmission and reception before rivals did. Marconi was born into comfortable circumstances, and his youthful passion for crafting devices to generate "Hertzian" waves was supported by his Irish mother and Italian father. Weightman delivers the technical information about Marconi's sending radio waves further than anyone else could at the time--he was the first to send signals across the Atlantic--then settles into the narrative of Marconi's patent battles and business operations, as well as his two marriages. Taciturn and careful, Marconi does not make for an effervescent biography; rather, the author's study is as stolid as its subject and does justice to Marconi's central place in the origination of wireless communication. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved