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Heinrich Hertz invented the first radio transmitter and receiver

Posted in Famous Inventors, Historical articles, History, Inventions, Science on Thursday, 28 March 2013

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This edited article about Heinrich Hertz originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 215 published on 26 February 1966.

Heinrich Hertz, picture, image, illustration

With this apparatus Heinrich Hertz proved that an electric spark produced impulses which travel through the air. A spark leaped across contacts on the left, inducing current in the ring on the right.

Many people think of Marconi as the inventor of wireless – or, as it is now called, radio. Actually, radio was not invented by any one man, but resulted from the experiments of many.

One of the first of these experimenters was Heinrich Hertz who was born on February 22, 1857, and became Professor of Physics at Bonn University.

During one of his electrical experiments he accidentally discovered that electric sparks would jump a small gap in a circuit.

In this experiment Hertz had two independent coils of wire wound around a cardboard cylinder. The ends of one coil were connected to two metal knobs a few inches apart. When the other coil was connected to a battery, a spark jumped across the gap separating these knobs. He also discovered that every time this happened, similar sparks jumped across a tiny gap in a copperring which was mounted on a desk on the far side of the room.

By means of delicate instruments, Hertz was able to establish that the sparks were, in fact, discharges of electricity flowing backwards and forwards in alternating waves or cycles.

He was even able to work out that each spark lasted about one-millionth of a second.

Although not realizing it, Hertz had designed the first radio transmitter and receiver. But he did not consider it as having any practical use, and certainly never thought it could become a means of communication.

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