On Signal Hill, In Newfoundland, Marconi’s Legacy

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St. JOHN’S, NEWFOUNDLAND, (a few years ago) – The young professor took me for a visit in the afternoon. It was a windy November day. Quite cold for me, even though not very cold for that part of Eastern Canada at that time of the year.

I remember a rather arid, windswept landscape, in the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean, with big waves. The professor took me to Signal Hill, the highest point on the island, where there is a construction named Cabot Tower, a large building that looked a bit like a lighthouse.

As we went inside, he explained to me that that was the place where the very first transatlantic radio transmission had taken place many years ago, in 1901. And it was Guglielmo Marconi who did it. A little permanent exhibition explains the event.

Of course, as I was born in Italy, I knew that Marconi had invented radio transmission. But I did not know about that particular experiment –a success. The letter “S” in the Morse alphabet was transmitted from a site in Cornwall, Marconi’s headquarters in the UK, to Newfoundland.

And there I was, right in the place where it all had happened. I was moved. I felt that I was somehow privileged to be right there. Marconi, a familiar name. Newfoundland, an unfamiliar place, where I had been sent by the government of the USA, my adoptive country. As an American, I was in Canada, on a lecture tour of a few universities and international affairs research centers. And, right there, I was reconnected to something I had learnt as a child, in school, in Italy.

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