J. C. Bose Invented Marconi's Wireless

Dr. Jai Maharaj jai at FLEX.COM
Sun Nov 2 03:02:24 UTC 1997




Posted by Girish Shenai on Sunday, 2 November 1997

Calcutta, Oct. 31, 1997

Nearly 100 years after Guglielmo Marconi’s first transatlantic
wireless communication, it has come to light that the detector
he had used to pick up the signal was invented by Professor
Jagadish Chandra Bose. The discovery -- made by a group of
scientists of the US-based Institute of Electronics and
Electrical Engineers (IEEE) — proves what has been a century-old
suspicion in the world scientific community: that the honour of
being the pioneer in wireless communication should have gone to
Bose and not Marconi.

"Our investigative research into the origin and first major use
of the solid state diode detector devices led to the discovery
that the first transatlantic wireless signal in Marconi’s
world-famous experiment was received by Marconi using the
iron-mercury-iron coherer with a telephone detector invented
by Sir J. C. Bose in 1898," Prof. Probir Bondyopadhyay, a senior
scientist associated with the US space agency, NASA, told The
Telegraph from Houston, Texas.

Bose’s invention of the "mercury coherer with a telephone",which
Marconi used, was published in the Proceedings of the Royal
Society, London, on April 27, 1899, over two years before
Marconi’s first wireless communication on December 12, 1901,
from Newfoundland, now in Canada. This information was not known
either in India or abroad and will settle once and for all one
of physics’ longest-enduring disputes.

In January, IEEE -- the most prestigious international forum of
radio scientists and electronic engineers -- will publish a
special issue, being guest-edited by Prof Bondyopadhyay,
where evidence will be presented to show that Marconi had used
the sensitive semiconductor diode device invented by Bose. So
far, this device was known as the "Italian navy coherer" whose
origins were lost in the mist of history. Before the special
issue -- marking the 50th anniversary of the transistor and the
100th anniversary of the solid state diode detector -- comes out,
the IEEE researchers will offer a glimpse of the results oftheir
investigations at a conference in Calcutta. Sponsored by the
University of Calcutta, the international conference will devote
a special session to Bose.

One of the organisers of the conference said: "Many
contemporary scientists knew Marconi was making a false claim,
but there was nothing at hand to confront him with at that

Investigations by the IEEE group show that both Bose and
Marconi were in London in 1896-97. The Italian was
conducting wireless experiments for the British post office and
Bose was on a lecture tour. Both scientists were interviewed
by McClure’s Magazine (now defunct) in March 1897.

In the interview, Bose came out with high praise for Marconi,
then under attack from established British scientists who
doubted his credentials. Marconi never could make it to
college because of his poor high school record.

Bose also said he was not interested in commercial telegraphy
and that others could use his research work.

In 1899, Bose unveiled his invention of the mercury coherer
with the telephone detector in a paper at the Royal Society.
In a curious coincidence, Bose lost his diary containing an
account of the invention and a prototype of the detector
during a lecture tour in the same year.

Brilliant Marconi quickly grasped the commercial importance
of Bose’s invention and began to explore it secretly. His
childhood friend Luigi Solari started experimenting with
Bose’s invention and presented Marconi with a slightly
modified design in the summer of 1901 for use in the
upcoming transatlantic experiment. The Italian scientist then
went on to apply for a British patent in his name, never
acknowledging his debt to Bose.

Bose’s mercury coherer with the telephone detector
represented the breakthrough in wireless technology as the
prevalent equivalents were incapable of receiving
long-distance signals.

"What we now have at our disposal are details of how Bose
developed the detector long before Marconi, yet was denied
the honour due to him," Prof. Tapan Kumar Sarkar, one of
the members of the IEEE group who teaches computer and
electrical engineering at Syracuse University, New York, said.

Securing Bose’s place in the history of long-distance
communication, the IEEE paper will narrate how the truth was
suppressed all these years, even though it was there for all to
see in the 1899 Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Prof. Arun K. Sen, one of the organisers of the Calcutta
conference, said the original instruments of Bose were
demonstrated by Mr Dibaker Sen, officer in charge, J.C.
Bose Institute, Calcutta, at an international symposium
organised by IEEE at Denver, Colorado last June.

"The demonstration was held in front of 10,000 scientists
attending the conference. We have already convinced the
world’s scientific community about the authenticity of
J.C.Bose’s research," he said.

Calcutta’s Bose had also used for the first time in history
electromagnetic waves to explode gunpowder and ring a bell
at a distance in 1895, demonstrating the potential of wireless
communication. This feat was recorded in The Daily Chronicle,
UK, in 1896.

So far, his reputation has rested on his botanical work that
showed plants’ capacity to respond to external stimuli.

This multifaceted scientific genius, however, lacked Marconi’s
commercial foresight that led the Italian to patent his work.

"A combination of factors like naivete about patenting, plain
misfortune and politics of the contemporary times weighed
against Bose," said a scientist associated with the IEEE

End of forwarded article.

Jai Maharaj
Om Shanti

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