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BOOK REVIEW:Early Radio -- In Marconi's Footsteps By Peter R. Jensen
REVIEWED BY RON FRISBIE
From Antique Radio Classified
(Copyright 1996 by John V. Terrey - For personal use only.)
You might assume that, after one hundred years, everything concerning Guglielmo Marconi would already be in print. However, Peter R. Jensen, an architect from Sydney, Australia, thought that researching and following Marconi's footsteps might possibly reveal information never before published. Jensen' book, Early Radio -- In Marconi's Footsteps, proves that he was right.
The book is divided into two sections: Part One: "A Traveller's History of Radio" describes the author's travels to many of the sites where Marconi's work was done. Written in a unique travelogue style, these chapters succeed in making the reader feel as if he is actually on the tour with the author.
An avid Amateur Radio operator (VK2AQJ and G4GZT) and longtime Marconi admirer, Jensen makes it clear that he had decided years ago to start on a pilgrimage someday to the more important sites of the inventor's work. He and his family began their long trek by traveling from Australia directly to Heathrow Airport in England and then to Italy. They were truly following "in Marconi's footsteps."
Once in Italy, they headed straight for Bologna, the closest city to Marconi's home, the Villa Grifone. It was here that the boy inventor was gripped with an insight that was to become his abiding passion for the next forty years -- communication without wires.
And it was here that Peter Jensen first felt the presence of the inventor. He vividly describes the feeling that came over him as he climbed the steps to the villa where the young genius worked so diligently to develop the most important components of wireless -- the coherer and the spark induction coil.
This visit to the Villa Grifone set the stage for the rest of the itinerary, which included Salisbury Plain, the Bristol Channel, Chelmsford, Dover, Dorset, the Isle of Wight, and Poldhu, all in England; Wimereux in France, Caernarvon in Wales, and Clifden in Ireland. Good photographs of all these locations are liberally included on almost every page of the book.
Part 2: "The Replication Projects" describes the equipment designed by Marconi, its function, and the principles involved. These chapters include descriptions, photographs, and circuit diagrams of Marconi's most important pieces of early wireless equipment -- a multiple tuner, a magnetic detector (maggie), a spark arrestor, a Leyden jar, a crystal receiver, a quenched spark gap, a rotary spark transmitter, and a large power panel. Even more interesting are Jensen's experiences in producing replicas of this equipment.
Following Part 2 are seven appendixes, which include selected letters from Marconi to Preece, dated 1896 to 1898, two General Post Office reports on Marconi's early experiments, his famous Patents 7777 and 12039, a report by Captain H.B. Jackson to the Admiralty on Marconi's early work, and a touching report dictated by Harold Bride, the surviving wireless operator of the Titanic.
For me, the only disappointment in this book is that Jensen could not have followed Marconi's footsteps to the North American continent, although, of course, he makes reference to Marconi's activities here. The book is well referenced and indexed, and I detected only a few minor inaccuracies. One is on page 25 where the Hall Street Building of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, Ltd., is dated 1898 instead of 1900.
Without question, this book is an ambitious undertaking, and Peter Jensen deserves special recognition for a fascinating story in which simple means were bent to extraordinary ends. In my opinion, the book is a masterpiece which every serious collector or student of radio should have in his or her library.
Early Radio -- In Marconi's Footsteps by Peter R. Jensen, priced at $39.95 in a handsome 8 1/2 x 11" hardcover format, is published by Kangaroo Press Pty. Ltd., 3 Whitehall Rd., Kenthurst NSW 2156, Australia. Well worth the price, it contains 170 pages with 212 photographs and illustrations, many of which are in brilliant color. It is available from the publisher, A.R.C., and other A.R.C. advertisers. Please be sure to check these suppliers for ordering information.
(Ron Frisbie, 312 S. 10th St., Akron, PA 17501)