Guglielmo Marconi: ‘Telecommunication Heritage’
On 26 September 2008 a unique ceremony took place in Salvan, Switzerland, in honour of Guglielmo Marconi’s first experiments in wireless telegraphy in this Swiss Alpine town in 1895. For the first time in its history, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), based in Geneva, has recognised a particular site for its invaluable contribution in the ‘Telecommunication Heritage’.
In the presence of many dignitaries including Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli, daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Salvan-Marconi Foundation in association with ITU, an agency of the United Nations, placed a plaque in recognition of Salvan’s contribution to ‘Telecommunication Heritage’. It commemorates the first wireless transmission beyond l.5 kilometres between Salvan and Les Marecottes in Valais, Switzerland.
Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)
Of Irish and Italian parentage, as a young man Marconi developed a passion for the sciences and studied physics at the technical institute of Livorno and the University of Bologna. He spent the summer of 1895 in Salvan, Switzerland. The story told in 1968 by Maurice Gay-Balmaz of Salvan who, as a youth, had helped Marconi with some of his earliest wireless experiments in the vicinity of the mountain village brought renown to Salvan that has continued until today.
The Association mondiale des ing?nieurs (IEEE) granted a “Historical Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing” to the site. In the presence of a number of dignitaries, IEEE Past President placed a commemorative bronze plaque on 26 September 2003 at La Pierre Berg?re or the Shepherdess Stone in Salvan.
Marconi’s experiments and worldwide achievements are widely documented in technical and professional literature including bibliographies and book collection on the many aspects of his life. He received honorary doctorates from several universities and many other international honours and awards. In 1909 with Karl Ferdinand Braun, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for important radio communications.
Marconi Day is celebrated on 25 April, the date of his birth in 1874. He died in Rome on 20 July 1937. A two-minute silence was observed on radio waves worldwide to commemorate the inventor of the first practical wireless telegraphy who became known as “Father of Radio”.
An important delegation of the International Telecommunications Union visited the site on 9 September 2007 under the guidance of Dr. Hamadoum Tour?, ITU Secretary General.
He declared “Coming to Salvan is in fact a pilgrimage. As an engineer in satellite communications and ITU Secretary General, it is a privilege for me. Tomorrow’s world will be more and more placed under the sign of Hertzian communications and the great inventor Marconi will remain forever a guide for all of us.”
On 26 September 2008, the local population and visitors were encouraged to participate in the celebratory event to honour Salvan. It included a scientific colloquium with lectures by experts in radio communications, historians and engineers with a large attendance and also a social gathering. They were encouraged to visit a new exhibition at the Salvan Marconi Museum and walk along the marked Marconi trail that begins at the museum and ends at the house in the village where he stayed.
In the presence of ITU representatives and dignitaries from the scientific, cultural, diplomatic and political worlds, the official ceremony to place the French language plaque concluded the programme. The following is a translation:
The International Telecommunications Union (UIT/ITU)
recognises the Commune of Salvan (Switzerland) and its
site of Pierre Berg?re as a cradle of telecommunications.
In 1895 Guglielmo Marconi realised his first transmissions
TST to more than l.5 kms linking Salvan and Marecottes.
For this, the ITU renders homage to the invaluable contribution to this site as telecommunications patrimony.
Dr. H. Tour? Secretary General, ITU Geneva, September 2008
Note: Acknowledgement is given to all sources used in preparation of this text. It follows published articles on Wireless telegraphy: Switzerland and Ireland, Ireland and Wireless Telegraphy “Wavelengths of time”, Salvan: Cradle of Wireless: Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), by Ita Marguet (2004, 2005, 2006).