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Milestones:Marconi's Early Wireless Experiments, 1895

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Marconi's Early Wireless Experiments, 1895

Salvan, Switzerland - 26 September 2003 - IEEE Switzerland Section 

On this spot in 1895, with local assistance, Guglielmo Marconi carried out some of the first wireless experiments. He first transmitted a signal from this "Shepherdess Stone" over a few meters and later, following one and a half months of careful adjustments, over a distance of up to one and a half kilometers. This was the beginning of Marconi´s pivotal involvement in wireless radio.

The village of Salvan, Switzerland was known in the last years of the 19th century: as a health resort. Located in the southwest of Switzerland in the Swiss Alps, very close to the France border, it was accessible only by a narrow mule path, nicknamed "route de Mont". Marconi, at the age of 21, visited Salvan in the Summer of 1895. It was suggested that he visited the resort to treat a respiratory ailment.

Marconi's equipment consisted of a battery, a Ruhmkorff induction coil, a Righi spark generator and an antenna. His goal: transmit a signal without a metallic connection. He set up his experiments on Pierre Bergère (the Shepherdess Stone). Marconi was operating the transmitter, and a young assistant*, a resident of Salvan, began to move the receiver, which sounded a bell, farther away. First the distance was approximately four or five meters. The final distance in which the experiment worked was approximately one and a half kilometers. Each time the bell sounded the young assistant would hold up a red flag; when it did not he would hold up a white flag. (The accounts of the actual distance vary.) These experiments continued for several weeks.

Marconi only spent a short time in Salvan, then returned to Italy. The following year he filed the original patent on his invention in London.

  • Much of this information was obtained some 70 years after the event, from the young assistant, Maurice Gay-Balmaz, who was 10 years old at the time of the experiment.