Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi FRSA: Inventor Of Long-Distance Radio

Marconi demonstrating apparatus he used in his first long-distance radio transmissions in the 1890s. The transmitter is at right, the receiver with paper tape recorder at left. (LIFE Photo Archive/Wikimedia Commons)

Guglielmo Giovanni Maria Marconi was born in Bologna, Italy on April 25, 1874 to Italian nobility. He was the great-grandson of Irish distiller John Jameson (yeah, like Jameson Whiskey), and his illustrious upbringing naturally afforded him the best of education, but Marconi was disinterested in school. Instead, he worked solely with private tutors who nurtured his natural curiosity in science. He was primarily fascinated with the nature of electricity and the possibilities it offered. Even with this lenient approach to education, however, he received poor grades and skipped out on college entirely.

When Marconi was in his early twenties, he read the works of Heinrich Hertz (the guy who proved the existence of electromagnetic waves, which is why we measure them in hertz) and became obsessed with the idea of using these waves to send messages across great distances. Sending voices through the air from miles away may have sounded like witchcraft back then, but now we just call it the radio.