The Literary Digest, November 4, 1899, pages 556-557:
WHO INVENTED WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY?
WHEN any process has attained commercial success, the number of claimants for the honor of its discovery is always legion. The introducer or patentee of the process has to bear a good deal of abuse from those who claim priority, and is frequently called hard names. Marconi, the Anglo-Italian expert in wireless telegraphy, is now going through this pleasant experience. He does not claim, of course, to have discovered the principle on which his device works: but he does claim to have perfected the details and to have got the whole system into worting order. But now comes Prof. A. E. Dolbear, of Tufts College, Massachusetts, who says that the Marconi system infringes a patent of his, taken out a decade ago. Says Electricity, in reference to the matter:
"Such being Professor Dolbear's opinion, it is his intention, as soon as the series of yacht races is concluded, to enjoin Mr. Marconi from exhibiting the working of his system before the naval authorities at Washington as originally intended. Referring to this subject Professor Dolbear's son, Mr. C. E. Dolbear, who is looking after his father's interests ill the matter, says:
We are reminded by Electricity that Henry Hertz, the German physicist, has usually been given the credit of demonstrating the existence of electric waves analogous to waves of light, and it has generally been supposed that this discovery laid the foundation of wireless telegraphy. It goes on to say:
" 'In 1882 my father attempted to get a patent from the Government for the invention of wireless telegraphy, but the Government refused to issue one to him on the ground that the scheme of transmitting intelligence between two points by means of electricity without wires was impracticable. For four years he worked, trying to prove to the Government that he was right and that his process was a success. Finally he convinced the Government by actual experiments, and on October 8, 1886, he received his patent, which was numbered 350,299. His patent was what was then known as an art patent, that is, it covered the entire art or scheme of the invention. In 1890 the Government ceased issuing such patents on the ground that if they were continued there would soon be no chance for inventors to patent small detail work. But our patent is that broad kind, and we propose to enforce our rights under it to the limit.
" 'My father's application for the patent was couched in substantially this language: "My invention relates to the establishing electric communications between two or more points without the use of wires or other like connections, and consists in establishing a potential at one point considerably above the normal and a potential at the other point considerably below the normal, and by varying the potential at the first point cause variations of the potential at the other point." ' "
"If Professor Dolbear's patent, taken out in 1886, or three years before Hertz's discovery, is as broad as claimed and covers the whole process of transmitting in signals without wires, then either to Dolbear should be given the credit of having discovered so-called Hertzian waves, or else the principle on which his system is based is entirely different from that made use of by Marconi and consequently there can be no infringement. Furthermore, it is very doubtful if a patent so broad as to cover a well-known principle could be sustained, and in this connection it should be noted that the patents so far taken out by Marconi merely cover details of apparatus such as the coherer, vertical conductor, etc."
Marconi does not appear to be alarmed by the threatened litigation. He said to a reporter:
"I know nothing about any injunction. Nobody has said anything to me about interference with my work Mr. Dolbear's patent has nothing to do with my invention. Preece in England had a patent dating back to 1895, but it did not affect me in any way in my work in England. My system is entirely different.
Commenting on these facts, The Scientific American says, in a leading editorial (October 14):
"Nothing would please me better than to have Mr. Dolbear begin legal proceedings against me. You may say that I am going right ahead with my work for the Navy Department as soon as the yacht races are over. I have taken advice on the subject and am fully confident of my position. They may bring on their lawsuits. I will welcome them."
"It was inevitable that the great success which is attending the Marconi system should have aroused the interest, and in some cases excited the jealousy, of other investigators in the field of wireless telegraphy. Marconi himself, we have no doubt, would be the first to acknowledge that there are others who have done conscientious work in this line of investigation, and he would be perfectly willing to give full credit where it is due. The existence of the Hertzian waves was known long before this young Anglo-Italian harnessed them so successfully to the uses of modern life, and others, both before and after him, have attempted unsuccessfully to do what he has done.
"We regret to note that his arrival in America has unduly excited certain holders of patents on wireless telegraphy, who believe that Marconi is receiving more credit than is strictly his due, and claim that the credit is not his, but theirs. This has been the history of all great epoch-marking inventions, and the recent extraordinary attempts to prove that the Bessemer steel process was misnamed, and that a certain Kelly had actually done the work and should receive the credit, will be fresh in the minds of our readers. . . . . . .
"Whatever may be the merits of this controversy, we are satisfied that it would be as easy to sweep back the tide with a broom as to prevent the system of telegraphy which has just done such good work off New York harbor and with the English fleet from becoming forever identified with the name of the man who first brought wireless telegraphy to a practical and useful consummation."