Home » Marconi

Marconi: The Man Who Networked the World

Oxford University Press, July 2016. 872 pages.

marconiA little over a century ago the world went wireless. Cables and all their limiting inefficiencies gave way to a revolutionary means of transmitting news and information almost everywhere, instantaneously. By means of "Hertzian waves," as radio waves were initially known, ships could now make contact with other ships (saving lives, such as on the doomed R.M.S. Titanic); financial markets could coordinate with other financial markets, establishing the price of commodities and fixing exchange rates; military commanders could connect with the front lines, positioning artillery and directing troop movements. Suddenly and irrevocably, time and space telescoped beyond what had been thought imaginable. Someone had not only imagined this networked world but realized it: Guglielmo Marconi.

As Marc Raboy shows us in this enthralling and comprehensive biography, Marconi was the first truly global figure in modern communications. Born to an Italian father and an Irish mother, he was in many ways stateless, working his cosmopolitanism to advantage. Through a combination of skill, tenacity, luck, vision, and timing, Marconi popularized-and, more critically, patented-the use of radio waves. Soon after he burst into public view with a demonstration of his wireless apparatus in London at the age of 22 in 1896, he established his Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company and seemed unstoppable. He was decorated by the Czar of Russia, named an Italian Senator, knighted by King George V of England, and awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics-all before the age of 40. Until his death in 1937, Marconi was at the heart of every major innovation in electronic communication, courted by powerful scientific, political, and financial interests, and trailed by the media, which recorded and published nearly every one of his utterances. He established stations and transmitters in every corner of the globe, from Newfoundland to Buenos Aires, Hawaii to Saint Petersburg.

Based on original research and unpublished archival materials in four countries and several languages, Raboy's book is the first to connect significant parts of Marconi's story, from his early days in Italy, to his groundbreaking experiments, to his protean role in world affairs. Raboy also explores Marconi's relationships with his wives, mistresses, and children, and examines in unsparing detail the last ten years of the inventor's life, when he returned to Italy and became a pillar of Benito Mussolini's fascist regime. Raboy's engrossing biography, which will stand as the authoritative work of its subject, proves that we still live in the world Marconi created.

"Finally, the comprehensive, rounded, readable and deeply researched biography of Marconi that so significant a figure of change deserves. It is an elegant, ambitious, and brilliant treatment of an elegant, ambitious, and brilliant figure."
--Monroe E. Price, Director, Center for Global Communications Studies, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

"Marconi is a tour de force, revealing the fascinating history of one of the most influential figures in the history of modern technology and the communications revolution. Employing a wide range of archival sources, Raboy crafts a highly readable story of a man who is at times heroic, at times a cad. He is unflinching in exposing the major role Marconi played in support of Mussolini's Fascist regime."
--David Kertzer, author of The Pope and Mussolini, Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Biography

"Raboy superbly traces every twist and turn of Marconi's life, showing us his influences, business strategies and shrewd management of his own public persona. Raboy skilfully locates his activities in the context of communications policy, the arms race between Britain and Germany, and popular culture."
-- WB Carlson, Nature

"[Raboy ] is especially adroit at portraying how Marconi was swept up in the modern world he helped create... Marconi really hums when Raboy details how his subject was implicated in the social and political effects of wireless... Marconi, which functions as a cultural history as much as a biography, reminds us that in its earliest incarnations, wireless had a romance and mystique."
-- Greg Milner, New York Times

Media, please contact:
Gabriel Kachuck
Oxford University Press
198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 (USA)

Available at Oxford University Press, at many libraries and wherever books are sold


Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction (2016)
Finalist, RBC Taylor Prize for Canadian literary non-fiction (2016)
Long-listed, British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction (2016)
Honorable mention, Association of American Publishers PROSE Award in the category of biography (2016)
Short-listed, Physics World Book of the Year (2017)
Selected entry, Association of American University Presses (AAUP), Book, Jacket & Journal Show (2017)
Winner, William and Joyce Middleton Electrical Engineering Award offered by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for best book in history (2018)


New York Times review

Wall Street Journal review
London Sunday Times review
National Post review
Literary Review review
Books Ireland review
La Lettura review
Nature review
New Scientist review
Engineering & Technology review
Physics World review
Radio User review
The Tablet review
The Irish Catholic review
Journalism History review
Canadian Journal of Communication review
Journal of Communication review
Journal of Radio & Audio Media review
Journal of Modern Italian Studies review
ISIS, A Journal of The History of Science Society review
JHistory / H-Net review
Metascience review
Canadian Jewish News review
Book excerpt in The Daily Beast
Globe and Mail article
BBC Mundo article
Il Venerdi article

CBC Books article
Montreal Review of Books article
McGill News article
Op-Ed by Marc Raboy in LA Times
Article by Marc Raboy in Ottawa Citizen

Post by Marc Raboy on NPR 13.7 blog
Post by Marc Raboy on LSE Media Policy blog
Oxford University Press blog piece
Marconi Society blog piece
My Book, The Movie blog piece
ABC Radio National interview
RTE Radio 1 The History Show podcast
New Books Network podcast
CBC Ideas podcast
CBC Our Ottawa tv interview
TVO Agenda broadcast
Radio What She Said interview

Radio KGO interview
Canada’s History interview
Québec-Science interview
ABC “Nightlife” interview (July 2, 2023)
Pioneer Institute podcast (June 7, 2023)
Ottawa Amateur Radio Club talk (March 8, 2023)
PolicyTracker podcast (February 20, 2023)
United States Patent & Trademark Office talk (June 7, 2022)
On the short waves review (July 2021)