Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Love Life of Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi -- inventor, father of long distance radio transmission, and winner of the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with Karl Ferdinand Braun (Wikipedia) -- had a tangled love life, and the Brooklyn Eagle of 1902 payed close attention to the affairs of his heart.

On January 21 the Eagle questioned Marconi in depth about his breakup with his fiancee, Josephine Holman. "He Appears Much Downcast," the headline ran. "The distinguished electrician was evidently much broken up and in a state of the deepest dejection."

To enlarge type right click and "view image."

The Eagle reporters went on to question Marconi at great length, and the "the appallingly driven inventor," as Erik Larson describes him, showed remarkable restraint as he patiently and repeatedly declared that the decision was final, and that he and his ex-fiancee were no longer speaking.

The next day, January 22, Marconi prepared to set sail on a voyage across the Atlantic on the cruise ship Philadelphia. His ex-fiancee had already set sail with her mother on a different cruise ship, the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.

The Eagle took this opportunity to question the heartbroken inventor again. "I can add nothing to what I said yesterday about the breaking of my engagement," he told the reporters. As Marconi examined the ship's wireless teleegraphy instruments, the Eagle noted, "He looked careworn and like a man who had undergone a heavy bereavement." The end of the article gives brief mention to the possibility of wireless communication between Cuba and Tampa.

It appears that Marconi got over the rejection. Three years later, in March of 1905, he married the Hon. Beatrice O'Brien, a daughter of Edward Donough O'Brien, 14th Baron Inchiquin. They had three daughters, Degna, Gioia and Lucia, and a son, Giulio.

The marriage lasted 19 years. The Marconis divorced in 1924, and, at Marconi's request, the marriage was annulled in 1927, so he could remarry. (Beatrice also remarried.)

In June of 1927, Marconi married again -- to Maria Cristina Bezzi-Scali. According to Wikipedia, Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was Marconi's best man at the wedding. They had one daughter, Maria Elettra Elena Anna. This marriage also ended in divorce.

For unexplained reasons, Wikipedia says, Marconi left his entire fortune to his second wife and their only child, and nothing to the children of his first marriage.

Somewhere in between these marriages and proposals, Marconi was also romantically linked to native Brooklynite Inez Milholland Boissevain, an athlete, attorney, WWI news correspondent and women's rights activist. She died tragically at a young age, soon after collapsing while riding "a huge white horse" at the head of a parade, "draped in robes, and looking startlingly beautiful."
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A Few Brooklyn Marconi Connections:

Marconi established one of his Marconi Land Stations (an actual "radio shack") in Sea Gate, Brooklyn. In 1909, David Sarnoff was appointed as night manager of the Sea Gate station. Eventually he ended up as head of RCA -- Radio Corporation of America.

The German scientist Ferdinand Braun, with whom Marconi shared the Nobel Prize,  lived the last year of his life under house arrest during the Great War at his son's Brooklyn apartment. He died in Brooklyn in April 1918.

Marconi's daughter Gioia Marconi Braga founded the Guglielmo Marconi International Fellowship Foundation (now called the Marconi Society), headquartered for years at Brooklyn's Polytechnic Institute (it has since moved to Columbia).  George Bugliarello, Polytechnic's President and founder of MetroTech, was an ardent supporter, a president of the Marconi Society, and on the board.

Gioia Braga was also on the board of Brooklyn Polytechnic. Her son Michael is presently on the board of the Marconi Society.

There may be a Brooklyn branch of the Marconi's still around. (Drop us a line!)

Go to McBrooklyn's HOME PAGE.

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