Disturbing Details About The Link Between Fascism And The Invention Of The Radio

In 1895, Guglielmo Marconi began experimenting with sending electric signals at his father's home in Italy (via Lemelson-MIT). As the National Inventors Hall of Fame explains, this marked the beginning of a new system of communication: the radio. Marconi was born in Italy in 1874, and was inspired by the work of Heinrich Hertz, per PBS. Hertz discovered radio waves in 1888, and Marconi picked up where Hertz left off. Despite being able to send and receive messages within a two-mile radius, Marconi's innovation was largely rebuffed by the Italian government. As a result, Marconi left for the U.K.

According to Britannica, Marconi patented his invention in 1896. Shortly after, in May 1897, Marconi transmitted a radio signal across the Bristol Channel from Lavernock Point to the island of Flat Holm (per the BBC). Marconi was aided in this endeavor by George Kemp, a post office engineer from Cardiff. With Kemp's help, Marconi sent messages in morse code across open water. 125 years after revolutionizing wireless communication, Cardiff Bay wanted to erect a statue honoring Marconi and this event, according to another article from the BBC. However, their plans were called into question when they learned that Marconi was a zealous fascist and a follower of Benito Mussolini.

Guglielmo Marconi supported Benito Mussolini

In the years after he successfully transmitted radio signals across Bristol Channel, Guglielmo Marconi went on to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, per Britannica. Then in 1929, he was nominated to the Italian senate, and in 1930, he became president of the Royal Academy of Italy. History notes that Marconi was appointed to these roles when the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, was in power. That said, reports indicate that Marconi had nothing but acclaim for Mussolini and fascism (via The New York Times). In a speech from 1932, Marconi states that Italy was thriving and in the process of modernizing, all thanks to Mussolini.

This speech, per The New York Times, was given to commentate the 10-year anniversary of Mussolini's rise to power in 1922. A photo dated October 28, 1930 shows Mussolini and Marconi standing next to each other (via The University of Massachusetts Amherst). This picture was taken on the anniversary of the March on Rome, when Mussolini and fascism ascended to power in Italy, according to Britannica. A 1935 article from The New York Times states that Marconi was working on a new invention for the military. The publication notes that Marconi had demonstrated his new innovation to Mussolini.

Guglielmo Marconi's anti-Semitic activities

The Guardian states that it was widely believed that Guglielmo Marconi had supported fascism simply because he had no other choice. However, documents revealed in 2002 demonstrated that Marconi had long been practicing discriminatory policies against Jewish people during his time as president of the Royal Academy of Italy. The publication reveals that the institution was founded by Benito Mussolini, whose mission it was to advance what he believed to be "the genius of our race, and to favour its expansion abroad." That said, documents show that Marconi had excluded Jews from joining the academy by writing an "E" on a list of candidates. This stands for "Ebreo," the Italian word for Jew.

Per the BBC, Cardiff Council was unaware of Marconi's nefarious past. When they learned that Marconi was a fascist, their planned statue to memorialize his accomplishments in the region was a no-go. They stated, "Having been made aware of these matters, the project team will be contacting all funding partners immediately and beginning a review of the sculpture proposals to ensure that the fascinating history of Flat Holm Island is celebrated in a way that's consistent with Cardiff's values as a tolerant and welcoming city where equality and diversity is championed and celebrated."

The BBC states that Marconi, who is known as the "father of radio," was once hailed for his inventions. The Guardian writes that he is now seen as a pariah for his role in enforcing anti-Semitism. Marconi died in 1937 at age 63, per Britannica.