Even though Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi are the “prime suspects” but did you know that there are other people too who might have truly invented the radio?
By: Ringo Bones
Majority of baby-boomers and generation-x schoolbooks usually ascribe the invention of the radio to Italian Guglielmo Marconi and it wasn’t until the tail end of the 1980s that the US Supreme Court declaration that Nikola Tesla was the true inventor of radio became more or less general knowledge. Although as for Tesla’s celebrated US Supreme Court victory over Marconi, the decision plainly states that Marconi’s original 1897 wireless patent stands unchallenged, there are other people who might have independently invented their version of radio around the same time as Marconi and Tesla.
Back in 1892, a Kentucky farmer named Nathan B. Stubblefield invented the Induction Coil System which is a type of a primitive radio transmitter. Though largely forgotten, there are a few landmarks in the town of Murray, Kentucky today that points to where Stubblefield conducted his prototype radio transmitter.
At around the same time, Dr. Mahlon Loomis from Virginia experimented with a kite mounted tuned antenna circuit which he hoped would gain funding from Congress. But sadly, grant money from Capitol Hill never came. Although a research conducted back in 1992 uncovered that Dr. Loomis’ notes on the radio experiments he conducted during the 1890s were at least a decade ahead of the radio research done by both Marconi and Tesla.
Back in 1886, a version of the wireless telephone was patented by a physics professor named Amos Emerson Dolbear based on a device that he publicly demonstrated in various fairs the United States, Canada and Europe at the time. Although, Dolbear’s device was later revealed to be just an RF system that lacked a suitable detector.
During the late 1880s, John Trowbridge was doing extensive experiments in both induction and earth-or-water-conduction wireless apparatus at Harvard. And so did Thomas Edison (who later became Nikola Tesla's arch-rival during the "War of the Currents"), Lucius Phelps were developing their various systems of wireless telegraph / telephone systems to communicate with moving trains since the beginning of the 1880s.
Even though they anticipated Marconi’s patents, two inventors were often conveniently left out by Tesla advocates – like Oliver Lodge who in 1898 and John S. Stone who a month earlier than Tesla in 1900 – had working RF devices that would cast doubt the US Supreme Court’s decision in its proclamation that Tesla was the true inventor of radio. Could this drag the “great radio controversy” even further?
When the then Soviet Union successfully navigated their lunar space probe Lunik III to the far side of the moon back in 1959, they named one of the hitherto undiscovered craters in honor of Aleksandr Popov, who they claim invented radio. Though Aleksandr Popov’s RF experiment is largely unknown in the West, only a handful of people even know the name of Aleksander Popov.
Despite the controversy behind radio true inventor largely revolves around Marconi and Tesla, there might still be others who, between the years of 1880 to 1900, could have independently created a working device that could truly be called a radio transmitter. Maybe they are just too engrossed in their work or lacking a working knowledge of existing patent laws of the time, might have missed out to be declared as the true inventor of radio.