Amateur Radio News

A Very Happy Birthday, and Many Thanks to Heinrich Hertz!

German physicist Heinrich Hertz (February 22, 1857-January 1, 1894) accomplished much in his short 36 years of life—most notably, proving the existence of electromagnetic waves during his tenure as professor of physics at the Karlsruhe Polytechnic in Germany. He performed a series of experiments on the subject from 1885-1889, using and validating James Clerk Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory of life, also known as the Maxwell Equations, as the foundation for his research.

An academic at heart, Hertz graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Berlin in 1880, receiving his Ph.D. and studying under Hermann von Helmholtz, a renowned German innovator in the field of electro- and thermos-dynamics. Hertz began serious study of the Maxwell Equations in 1883 and within three years was recording measurements for the length and velocity of electromagnetic waves. In 1886, Hertz was credited with being the first person to transmit and receive controlled radio waves—although British-American inventor David Hughes accomplished the same feat in 1879 only to be dissuaded of its significance by his constituents.

Interestingly, Hertz also failed to see the potential significance of his discovery, even claiming, “I do not think that the radio waves I have discovered will have any practical application.” He was, of course, quite wrong and Hams everywhere are very glad for it! Marconi would later use Hertz’s research to develop the radio telegraph system, spurring the advent of modern-day radio.

Hertz went on to become a professor of physics at the University of Bonn in 1889. There he continued his research on the discharge of electricity in rarified gasses until his untimely death in 1894 from complications following a surgery meant to alleviate recurrent migraines.

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