Guglielmo Marconi: Inventor and Entrepreneur
Time: 13:45 - 16:15
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HF323
Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)
What is the course about?
This online film studies course explores the legacy of Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), who is often viewed as one of the main pioneers of wireless telegraphy and radio. While many have similar claims, few managed to rival the impact he had with his early experiments in wireless technology and his entrepreneurial activities. This short course will explore the developments he made in wireless technology and the public demonstrations he organised, such as transmitting across the English Channel and then the Atlantic, experiments which helped catch the imagination of the public at the time. We then look at how his entrepreneurial skills led him to create a global company which provided ship to shore radio communications including, most famously, for the Titanic. After World War I, a Marconi company which was involved in some of the first experiments in the UK in broadcasting, such as with the global broadcast of Dame Nellie Melba singing live in 1920, became in 1922 one of the founding companies of the British Broadcasting Company. And, even now, one of the largest British defence Companies, BAe systems, can trace its heritage back to Marconi’s original companies. While he had dalliances with fascism in Italy and died at the young age of 63 in 1937, Marconi is still feted worldwide and his legacy lives on, not just through the names of some of the companies he set up, but through the airports, parks and other institutions and artefacts named after him.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
To explore the impact and legacy of Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), we will explore a number of topics. First, we will focus on the state of technological develops in wired and wireless technology at the end of the C19th, and then look at Marconi’s contribution to their development. Secondly, we will explore how Marconi not only invented and enhanced wireless technologies, but how he was also a showman, organising demonstrations to engage with the public’s imagination. The next topic focuses on the cultural, social, economic and political context within which Marconi was to develop and exploit his inventions. We will reflect on the importance of communications technologies to the British Empire at this time, and we will explore questions about who owns the ether, how it should be regulated and who should provide radio services. The fourth topic relates to Marconi’s pre-war companies which he set up to exploit his wireless inventions and patents. This includes his first company, Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company which then became the Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company. The final topic for the first week of this course, looks at the impact of the war which, initially might be viewed as hindering the development of wireless communication and radio broadcasting, but can also be viewed as an accelerator.
The second part of the course, which focuses on the post-World War I period, explores how Marconi’s companies started to get involved in developing broadcast technologies as well as experimenting in broadcasting itself. We will then explore how Marconi’s companies built on their role in the development of radio, to take on a similar important role in the development of television technologies in the UK. Our last topic, will touch more on Marconi as an individual, reflecting on his dalliance with fascism, the award of the Nobel prize in 1909, and his legacy since his early death in 1937.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
- Understand the technology developments happening in radio around the turn of the C19th century and Marconi’s contributions to these.
- Have knowledge of Marconi’s attempts to engage with the public and the first companies he set up.
- Understand how Marconi and his companies contributed to the development of wireless communication and radio and television broadcasting after the war.
- Recount key moments in the life of Marconi.
- Understand the legacy of Marconi from the position of the early 22nd century.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an introductory course in television for those interested in media history. No prior knowledge of television, or media history is required.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The class will be taught online each week. Sessions will be run by way of interactive workshops, lectures and small discussion groups. Class outlines, PowerPoints and any reading of viewing will be made available through google classroom. Each week small tasks will be set in preparation for the following week, though the completion of these is not necessary to attend the class.
When taught online you will need:
- Computer/ table or smart phone – with working microphone and camera.
- Access to the internet.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
There are no required costs to attend the class. Though if you want to undertake reading to expand your knowledge, you could purchase the book by Gavin Weightman, Signor Marconi’s Magic Box: The invention that sparked the radio revolution (2004), which can be second hand, online, for around £5.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Look for other Television and Film Studies courses under History Culture and Writing/Film Studies at www.citylit.ac.uk.
Dr. Paul Rixon is an independent media scholar and writer who has taught on Media, Television and Radio Studies courses at Universities around the UK for over 25 years. His research covers American broadcasting, British radio and television history, as well as work on radio and television critics. He has published three monographs, American Programmes on British Screens, TV Critics and Popular Culture and Radio and Popular Journalism in Britain, and numerous articles in journals such as Journal for Media History, Journalism, The Journal of Popular Television and the Radio Journal. He is currently finalising an article about radio criticism and The Listener and completing his first novel.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.