A chronology of events

Print edition : March 21, 1998

1895: The December issue of the British magazine The Electrician wrote about Bose's wireless receivers: "His sensitive detector of electromagnetic radiation, perfectly prompt in its self-recovery, should serve to revolutionise the existing methods of telegraphy... The coherer devised by Prof. Bose would appear to leave little to be desired, and it is certainly more likely to withstand the thousand and one shocks at sea than any of the forms hitherto brought about... should Professor Bose succeed in perfecting and patenting his coherer, we may in time see the whole system of coast lighting throughout the navigable world revolutionised by the discoveries made by a Bengali scientist working single-handed..."

1898: Bose invented the mercury coherer with a telephone detector and presented it to the Royal Society on March 6, 1899.

1899: Bose's landmark paper 'On a Self-recovering Coherer and the Study of the Cohering Aaction of Different Metals' appears in the April issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society wherein he describes his experiments with a telephone attached to the iron-mercury-iron coherer.

1901: Marconi conducted the world's first trans-Atlantic wireless communication at Newfoundland by receiving the pre-arranged Morse code signal for the letter 'S'.

1902: Marconi did not disclose any details of the receiving device at the first public meeting he addressed on January 13 at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE), New York.

1902: In an interview in the February issue of McClure's Magazine, Marconi acknowledged for the first time that he had used a telephone to listen to the trans-Atlantic message.

1902: Prof. A. Banti, Editor of L'Elettricista brought out into the open the first hints of a scandal in May. He said: "It was an Italian navy signalman P. Castelli who is supposed to have invented the mercury coherer."

1902: At a lecture in The Royal Institution on June 13, Marconi claimed that the coherer was "designed by the technical personnel of the Italian Navy" and went on to say that it was "Lt. Solari who brought the coherer to him" and called it the Italian navy coherer. In the same lecture, Marconi acknowledged Prof. Hughes' work of 1879 on coherers and telephones. (Bondyopadhyay says that this was done only to cover up his tracks as Hughes never worked with a mercury coherer).

1902: In a letter dated July 3, published in The Times, London, Lt. P. Solari says, "the idea of the employment of mercury had been suggested to me by something I had read in some English publication..."

1903: In another letter dated July 10 and published in The Times, Solari stated that "he did not invent the coherer", but did not say anything about Hughes being the forerunner either.

1993: V.J. Philips, a British historian, critically analysed and presented in a time sequence "The Italian Navy Coherer Affair - A Turn of the Century Scandal" in the May issue of the Proceedings of Electrical Engineering. But he did not discover the true origin of the novel detector.

1998: Bondyopadhyay concluded that "the notion that this detector device was invented in the Italian navy is eminently fraudulent because Marconi, through his careful choice of words, caused deliberate confusions and, using clear diversionary tactics, shifted attention to the work of Hughes, who was already dead at the time."

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.


R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor