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Price: $38.50

Hardback 832 pp.
155 mm x 234 mm



Publication date:
July 2016

Imprint: OUP US

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The Man Who Networked the World

Marc Raboy

Nominated for the 2016 Governor General's Literary Award in Non-fiction.

Longlisted for the 2017 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

Behind so much of what we take for granted in the world of instantaneous communication towers Guglielmo Marconi. Thanks to his wireless system, which came into full use about a century ago, the cables that had constrained communication, slowing the exchange of news and information, disappeared. News and information could be transmitted almost everywhere, instantaneously. Ships could communicate with other ships (which saved at least some of the passengers on the RMS Titanic), financial markets could coordinate with other financial markets, and military commanders could maintain contact with front-line troops. Through a combination of skill, luck, vision, and timing, Marconi popularized-and, more critically, patented-a radio system that profoundly and irrevocably changed the way the world communicated.

As Marc Raboy shows in this engrossing and encyclopedic work, Marconi very early envisaged a world of seamless communication and then set out to create it. Born to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Marconi was in many ways stateless. After a demonstration of his wireless apparatus using "Hertzian waves," as radio waves were called, in London at the age of 22 in 1896, he established his Wireless Telegraph & Signal Co. Between that moment and his death in 1937, Marconi was at the heart of every major innovation in electronic communication, including radio transmission, and was courted by powerful scientific, political, and financial interests. He was decorated by the Czar of Russia, named an Italian Senator, knighted by King George V of England, and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics--all before the age of 40.

Based on original research and unpublished archival materials in four countries, Raboy's biography offers the entirety of Marconi's story, from his early days in Italy, to his groundbreaking experiments in transatlantic communication, to his role as a diplomatic go-between. Raboy also explores Marconi's relationships with his wives, lovers, mistresses and children, and examines in detail the last ten years of the inventor's life, when he returned to Italy and became a leading pillar of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime. Comprehensive, authoritative, and compelling, Marconi reveals the origins of our networked world and the man who first realized it.

Readership : Readers interested in the history of technology, the politics of late Victorian/Edwardian England, the efforts to save the British Empire, the rise of the US entrepreneurial spirit, the role of technology and politics in early 20th century Germany, World War I and its aftermath, Italian fascism, the interwar period, and the emergence of broadcasting.

Prologue: Marconi in His Time and Ours
PART I The Prodigy
1. Bologna: Beginnings
2. Priority and Detractors
3. London: Start-up
4. The Magician
5. New York: New Frontiers
6. Love and Imperialism
7. The Upstart Technology
8. "The Great Thing"
9. Newfoundland: The World Shrinks
PART II The Player
10. Corralling the Brand
11. Regulation
12. Marriage
13. A Life in Litigation
14. The Marconi Aura
15. A New World Order
16. On the Way to Somewhere
17. The Perfect Laureate
PART III The Pat Riot
18. The Godsend
19. Signals of War
20. Wireless and Disaster
21. "The Marconi Scandal"
22. The Invisible Weapon
23. "L'eroe magico"
24. The Statesman
25. The Spark
PART IV The Outsider
26. The Master of the House
27. The Beam Indenture
28. Radio
29. The Merger
30. The Anchor
PART V The Conformist
31. A Servant of the Regime
32. Science and Fascism
33. "Your Every Wish Is My Command"
34. Controlling His Legacy
35. The Heritage
36. He Only Cared About Wireless . . .
Sources and Abbreviations

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Marc Raboy is Professor and Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University. He is the author or editor of numerous books, and he has been a visiting scholar at Stockholm University, the University of Oxford, New York University, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. He lives in Montreal.

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Special Features

  • The authoritative biography of the first giant in global communication.
  • Situates Marconi in his time and in ours.
  • Connects significant parts of Marconi's biography that have never before been explored in a single work.