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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 centre 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 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.Here is a rich portrait of the man and his era-a captivating tale 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.
Gavin Weightman is a documentary filmmaker, a journalist, and the author of The Frozen-Water Trade, a Book Sense 76 selection. He lives in London.