Signor Marconi's Magic Box
By Gavin Weightman. Order #2283 ..... $16.98
The world at the turn of the twentieth century was in the throes of Marconi-mania - brought on by an incredible invention that no one could quite explain, and by a dapper and eccentric figure (who would one day win the newly minted Nobel Prize) at the center of it all. At a time when the telephone, telegraph, and electricity made the whole world wonder just what science would think of next, the startling answer had come in 1896 in the form of two mysterious wooden boxes containing a device one Guglielmo Marconi had rigged up to transmit messages through the ether. It was the birth of the radio, and no scientist in Europe or America, not even Marconi himself, could at first explain how it worked…it just did. And no one knew how far these radio waves could travel, until 1903, when a message from President Theodore Roosevelt to the king of England flashed from Cape Cod to Cornwall clear across the Atlantic. Here is a rich portrait of the man and his era-and a captivating tale of science and scientists, business and businessmen. There are stories of British blowhards, American con artists, and Marconi himself: a character par excellence, who eventually winds up a virtual prisoner of his worldwide fame and fortune. ©2003 DeCapo/Perseus Books. Hardbound 336 pages. List $25.00.