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Meeting of Sir William Preece and Signor Marconi

The following noted regarding the first meeting of Mr. Preece (later Sir William Preece), Engineer-in-Chief of the British Post Office, and Signor Marconi, were written in 1944 by a Mr. P. R. Mullis, who had just retired from the British G.P.O.

"One morning in the year 1896 Mr. Probert (the Electric Light Superintendent) brought into Mr. Preese's room a young dark looking foreigner, who was introduced as Signor Guglielmo Marconi. Signor Marconi had with him two large leather bags, the contents of which were placed on the table, and seemed to consist of a number of brass knobs fitted to rods, a large spark coil and some odd terminals. But, most fascinating of all, a rather large-sized tubular bottle from which extruded two rods, terminating inside the bottle on two bright discs very close together and between which could be seen some bright filings or metal particles.

A key, some batteries and the spark coil were joined in series, and two of the rods fitted with the brass balls were passed through the large outer terminals of the spark coil. The curious glass tube (now spoken of as a coherer) was placed on a small table and was joined in series with some batteries and a bell. Two of the rods fitted with balls were also included in this circuit. A general impression of the apparatus is given in the sketches.

After one or two preliminary adjustments to the connections and brass balls by Signor Marconi, the key was depressed, and immediately the bell on the adjacent table commenced and continued to ring. Marconi then went over to the glass tube and gave this a few sharp taps, then the bell ceased ringing. Again the key was depressed and again the bell rang and continued to do so until the tube was shaken.

I knew by the chief's quiet manner and smile that something unusual had been effected.

The following day, and the rest of the week, were given over to further experimenting, which included putting a leather pad on the hammer of a heavier bell and, after short-circuiting the contact pillar so that in action it automatically was brought into contact with the coherer, and 'de-cohered' it. It was but a short stage from this, and by successive steps, that a complete Morse system of signalling was built up."

Ref: The Post Office Electrical Engineers' Journal (UK), April 1944.

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