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Syntony and Credibility: John Ambrose Fleming, Guglielmo Marconi, and the Maskelyne Affair

  • Sungook Hong
Chapter
Part of the Archimedes book series (ARIM, volume 1)

Abstract

The witnessing and reporting of successful experiments held a special strategic place in Guglielmo Marconi’s early wireless telegraphy, for they advertised the practical nature of his system and calmed objections to it. When, after 1900, syntony, or tuning, became a central issue in radiotelegraphy, Marconi devised a new syntonic system for sending and receiving wireless messages, and provided a series of powerful demonstrations of the system’s effectiveness. These were witnessed and then reported by John Ambrose Fleming, scientific advisor to the Marconi Company since 1899. Fleming was able to act as a trustworthy witness because he had high credibility in the British electrical engineering and physics communities — a credibility that was built upon twenty years during which he acted as a mediator between the worlds of alternating-current power engineering and of physics. Fleming, as a supportive witness, was thus troublesome to Marconi’s adversaries. In June 1903, Nevil Maskelyne, one of Marconi’s opponents, interfered with Fleming’s public demonstration of Marconi’s syntonic system at the Royal Institution by sending derogatory messages from his own simple transmitter. This incident, which became known as the Maskelyne affair, severely damaged both Marconi’s and Fleming’s credibility. Indeed, soon after the affair Fleming was dismissed from his advisorship to Marconi.

Keywords

Royal Institution Complete Specification British Patent Leading Article Simple Transmitter 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sungook Hong
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and TechnologyUniversity of TorontoCanada

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