Glenn Gould: Canadian
“Bach Piano Concerto No.7 in G minor BW”
…for my friend Sisyphus and her sore brain.
In 1906 A Canadian Inventor Stepped Up To The Mic…
…and became the first person to transmit his voice via electromagnetic waves. On Christmas Eve, 1906, Reginald Fessenden — born near Montreal — made the first radio broadcast in history. Radio operators on ships in the Atlantic and Caribbean became the first people to hear a human voice emitting from equipment specially fitted to receive the broadcast. These radio operators and their Captains heard Fessenden speak for a few moments, then he played a record, and finally played “O Holy Night” on his violin, singing the last verse as he played. Fessenden then asked his listeners to send letters telling him where they were when they heard the broadcast… making him the first in a long line of night-time Radio Disc Jockey’s to wonder aloud “is anyone out there?”
There is a lot of confusion regarding how certain inventions come aboot. The Light Bulb was invented, for example, by James Woodward — a Canadian who, several years later, sold the patent to Thomas Edison. The alkaline and Lithium batteries were also invented by a Canadian, and credit again was given to Edison. It has also been assumed that because Guglielmo Marconi managed to send a few beeps and boops to and from a transmitter that he invented radio. He didn’t. This gets a little more complicated because Marconi did his beep boop thing in Canada, and his experiments were mostly paid for by the Canadian government, while the majority of Fessenden’s work was done privately in America. This has long been a problem with the Canadian Government… we rarely trust our own until they’ve become successful elsewhere, meanwhile any old European Fascist can use their accent to get a taxpayer grant.
Marconi later won, along with Karl Ferdinand, the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics “[for]their contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy”. But it was Fessenden, again, who invented wireless telegraphy back in 1900. In fact almost all of Marconi’s work, especially the work which won him a Nobel Prize, was based on Fessenden’s inventions. When he was a child Fessenden had watched Alexander Graham Bell — a fellow Canadian (kind of) — give a demonstration on how to use the telephone. Two decades later, in 1900, near Virginia, Fessenden transmitted the world’s first wireless telephone message using Wireless Telegraphy: “One, two, three, four. Is it snowing where you are Mr. Thiessen? If it is, telegraph back and let me know.”
In the end, though, it was Marconi who got rich by being a better businessman and self-promoter… he was also great friends and a dinner companion with Italian Premier Benito Mussolini, but this seems to get left out of the school textbooks. Ahem. Anyway. Reginald Fessenden went on to improve the Light Bulb, work later credited to Thomas Edison. Fucking Edison. Fessenden won the Scientific American’s Gold Medal in 1929 for the Fathometer, a device which could determine the depth of water under a ship’s hull. Eventually Fessenden held 500 patents, including the invention of the turbo-electric drive for ships, insulating electrical tape and many other underwater wireless communication devices including “the first practical man-made sonar oscillator”, which allows for ship to submarine communications. And what else did Marconi do? Oh yeah, he had some pleasant dinner conversation with Mussolini. Because they were both fascists… and good friends.
Reginald Fessenden, the man who invented three forms of wireless communications, died mostly in obscurity in Bermuda. The Canadian Encyclopedia still does not recognize his work and when American science texts mention his work they usually refer to him as the “American Marconi.” When he died his patents had all been sold by his much richer investors to large American companies, although he had recouped some money through several lengthy lawsuits. Reginald Aubrey Fessenden was born October 6, 1866, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, and died July 22, 1932. According to Wikipedia “three of his most notable achievements include: the first audio transmission by radio (1900), the first two-way transatlantic radio transmission (1906), and the first radio broadcast of entertainment and music (1906).” Those are some spectacular achievements… someone should tell those Nobel people.