New York Times

Modestly Gives Credit to Other Inventors and Speaks of Life Saving from Titanic
Prof. Pupin Childes Speaker for Praising Other Inventors for Discoveries That Were Only by Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the wireless, made his first public appearance before an American audience last night in a lecture in the Engineering Societies Building under the auspices of the New York Electrical Society. The large auditorium was filled before Marconi appeared on the platform. Almost half of the audience were women.

When Mr. Marconi appeared in the wing of the platform the crowd in the balcony saw him first, and the cheering began. It spread to the main floor, and for at least two minutes there was continuous applause. Marconi bowed his acknowledgment, but had to rise again and again before the crowd was satisfied.

On his chair there lay a number of telegrams, some of the mwireless. [sic] One of them particularly interested Marconi. He passed it to John Bottomley, Chairman of the Lecture Committee, and Mr. Bottomley read it to the audience. This was the telegram:

I regret my inability to be present at your lecture, but hasten to congratulate you upon the success of your beautiful invention-the wireless telegraph-and on the splendid work your system has done in saving human life in disasters on the sea.

The Chairman paused and then read the name of Thomas Alva Edison. The cheering broke out again, and the women continued it even longer than the men. Then the inventor arose to speak, and this was the occasion for another protracted out of enthusiasm.

The platform and wings were filled with charts illustrative of wireless waves, aerial stations, transmitters and receivers. Mr. Marconi also used lantern slides and photographs of wireless stations all over the world. Every reference to the adaptability of wireless to rescues on the high seas brought forth applause, so eager was the audience to show appreciation toward this man, whose accomplishments had effected such wonders within the last week.

A Wireless Demonstration

The lecture in itself was largely technical. Only once did Mr. Marconi introduce anything of a sensational nature. That was when he ordered all lights out, turned on a switch. and exhibited some fireworks. The fireworks emitted from an eight-foot vertical stem on the stage, representing an aerial wire. Sparks making fascinating angles flashed in every direction from the stern, and Mr. Marconi, advancing within the electric field caused by the current, held various colored rods within the electric zone and the rods became lighted, showing that a current was passing to them without a direct contact of any kind. This demonstration caused continued cheering.

"I am glad to know," said Mr. Marconi at one stage of his lecture, "that the American Government is promulgating rules and regulations to thwart interference with wireless messages. Still we don't want too much interference. We don't want the waves of either [sic] enveloped in red tape. For commercial purposes, however, we must have isolation of messages if the science is expected to de develop.

There was also a suggestion in one part of the lecture that the inventor was about to perfect his arrangement, whereby one ship on the sea would be able to learn the exact position of every other ship on the sea, and thus avert all collision. He touched on this idea only briefly.

"I have an apparatus in mind," he said, "which shall give the exact location by cross bearings from stations on the shore. It would be especially useful to ships at sea in times of fog.

Mr. Marconi commended the efforts of the press to advance the science of wireless telegraphy and spoke particularly of THE NEW YORK TIMES as the only newspaper which received its news directly from Europe by means of the wireless. THE TIMES, he said, received its messages ten minutes from the moment of transmission, and this feat, he said, was an individual step in the science of wireless telegraphy which had encouraged him greatly.

With the completion of the scientific and technical explanations from chart and lantern slide, Mr. Marconi paused for a moment, and then, rather hesitatingly and with extreme modesty, approached the one subject which was on the mind of every one in the audience.

"The chief benefit of wireless," said the inventor, "is to aid ships in distress, and it is one of the greatest gratifications in my life to know that in time of need the wireless has not yet failed a single time. It has come to be considered indispensable.

Speaks of the Titanic

And just now all the world is thinking of this greatest of sea disasters, concerning which we know so little as yet. I feel that I must speak of it, but I do it reluctantly. I know that you will understand me if I say that all those who have been working with me entertain a true feeling of gratitude that wireless telegraphy has again in this instance helped to save human lives. I also want to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the press for the hearty approval it has given to the invention."

At the conclusion of this modest mention of his own part in the saving of a part of the Titanic's list of passengers and crew, there was another ovation, which lasted even longer than the others. The audience would not be satisfied, and the Chairman finally called for silence.

Then a number of inventors and engineers were called upon for extemporaneous expressions on Marconi's work. Prof. Michael Idvorsky Pupin, Professor of Electro-Mechanics at Columbia University and inventor of the "Pupin" coil, which has made telephoning at long distance possible, was the first to address his respects to the inventor. Prof. Pupin had come from Washington to hear Mr. Marconi lecture.

"He is the most modest man that I know of," said Prof. Pupin. "To-night I heard him give credit to his predecessors, Henry, Farraday, Maxwell, and Hertz; and yet the invention of wireles [sic] stelegraphy [sic] belongs absolutely and solely to him. The others had nothing whatever to do with it, and yet Marconi would give them credit. They were all experimenting in other lines. When Marconi grounded his transmitter and then grounded his receiver and let the spark go then the world had wireless telegraphy, and no one had ever done that before. If we must call our aerial waves by some name let us not call them Hertzian waves, but Marconi waves. They are his. The only fault that I have to find with Dr. Marconi is that be worries his brain with the troubles of the investors in his patent. Tthat [sic] to a foolish thing for any inventor to do.

Frank J. Sprague also complimented the inventor.

"When to-morrow night, some 700 or 800 persons land in New York," Mr. Sprague said, addressing himself to the inventor, "they can look to you as their savior."

Again there were cheers and Mr. Marconi was visibly impressed.

Explains the Titanic

The inventor's laudatory reference to the press during the course of his lecture was somewhat different in tone to his denunciation of "you journalists who are responsible for the confused and unreliable rumors about the Titanic" which he voiced yesterday afternoon when his attention was called to an article in an afternoon newspaper directed against those held responsible for the aerial messages of Monday stating that all aboard the Titanic had been saved and that the great ship was being towed to Halifax.

"Good gracious, hasn't the wireless done enough in this instance to free it from complaints?" he exclaimed. "My hat goes off to you if you can prove that one of our operators either sent or gave out such messages. It is you journalists that are to blame, not the wireless.

"This kind of thing has happened before, you know," he continued. "It happened during the Spanish war, when there was no wireless. You see, wireless has nothing to do with the circulation of false rumors.

"Every Tom, Dick, and Harry can have a wireless outfit of his own. He gets what he thinks is a flash from the Titanic or some other ship and he deciphers it as best he can. He relays his message to some newspaper, and there you are.

Now, it is perfectly simple to understand why there should have been the long wait between the first wireless message telling of the collision and the message tellin [sic] gof [sic] the Titanic's sinking. What happened was this: The Titanic struck the berg, say at 10 o'clock Sunday night. Immediately the ship's wireless sent out the word to land. The instrument on the ship kept working until about midnight and then it stopped, for it was silenced.

The Carpathia had received the flash from the Titanic, but the Carpathia, after reaching the scene, could send no word to shore, for her wireless was too weak. All she could do was to keep on flashing until the Olympic, which had also caught the Titanic's call, got within her range. Then the Olympic, with her more powerful transmitter, relayed what the Carpathia sent her. Hence, until the Olympic got near enough to receive the Carpathia's waves, there was no means of communicating with land after the Titanic sank. Could you expect any messages that came during that interval to be reliable?"

Related Biographies:

Guglielmo Marconi

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Mark Baber


Encyclopedia Titanica (2004) MARCONI CHEERED FOR WIRELESS FEATS (New York Times, Thursday 18th April 1912, ref: #3922, published 7 October 2004, generated 16th January 2021 10:34:10 AM); URL :