CALLING ALL NATIONS -- 1941
WONDERS OF RADIO
By Ellison Hawks, writing in the Popular Science Mechanical Encyclopedia, Popular Science Publishing Company, Inc., New York, 1941, p. 423 - 459.
The idea of communicating messages without wires is not a new one, for in the sixteenth century Baptista Porta, a Neapolitan philosopher, put forward a fantastic scheme based on the sympathy that was supposed to exist between needles touched by the same magnet or lodestone. By this system, he claimed, communication could easily be maintained between distant points, for every movement imparted to one of the needles would immediately induce similarly sympathetic movements in the other. In a book, Natural Magic, he did not hesitate to claim that with a long distant friend "even though he be confined by prison walls, we can communicate what we wish by means of two compass needles circumscribed with an alphabet." These wild statements about the power of "sympathetic needles" were repeated by later writers who did not trouble to test the idea, which is, of course, impracticable.
It is interesting to learn that although the great Kepler seems to have believed in the efficacy of the sympathetic telegraph, Galileo would have none of it. "You remind me," he makes Sagredo say, "of one who offered to sell me a secret art by which, through the attraction of a certain magnet needle, it would be possible to converse across a space of two or three thousand miles. And I said to him that I would willingly become the purchaser, provided only that I might first make a trial of the art, and that it would be sufficient for the purpose if I were to place myself in one corner of the room and he in the other. He replied that in so short a distance the action would scarcely be discernible, whereupon I dismissed the fellow, saying that it was not convenient for me just then to travel into Egypt or Muscovy, for the purpose of trying the experiment, but that if he chose to go there himself I would remain in Venice and attend to the rest."
A more rational and somewhat remarkable prophecy was made in 1665, by an ardent and keen-sighted scientist, Joseph Glanvill, F.R.S.: "I doubt not," he says, "but posterity will find many things, that are now but rumours, verified into practical realities.... To them that come after us it may be as ordinary to buy a pair of wings to fly into the remotest regions as now a pair of boots to ride a journey. And to confer at the distance of the Indies by sympathetic conveyances may be as usual to future times as to us in a literary correspondence . . . 'tis no despicable item that by some . . . way of magnetick efficiency it may hereafter with success be attempted...."