Skip to main content
A B C D(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) E F G H I(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) J(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) K L M N O P Q(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) R S T U(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) V W X(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) Y(/People and pioneers/Pioneers/) Z
   

Fessenden, Professor Reginald Fessenden, Professor Reginald (1866-1932)

Reginald Fessenden created the system for transmitting music and speech by radio, known as AM (amplitude modulation).

When Fessenden was the head of electrical engineering at Western University in 1893, he became inspired by the developments in radio made by Marconi. But Marconi's system could only transmit Morse code and Fessenden wanted to transmit voices and music.

The professor developed a way for sound to be 'piggy-backed' on a radio wave, where the wave was removed at the receiving end so only the original sounds were heard. He made his first long-range broadcast on Christmas Eve 1906 from the coast of Massachusetts. It was heard hundreds of miles out to sea by amazed and delighted ship radio operators

Although it wouldn't be fully developed until after the First World War I, this idea revolutionised the way radio was used. Up to then radio had been conceived for one-to-one communication, like a private conversation, but now people realised that radio broadcasts could entertain and inform a mass audience.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...