The First Antenna and Wireless Telegraph, Personal Communications System (PCS), and PCS Symposium in Virginia

  • G. H. Hagn
  • E. Lyon
Part of the The Springer International Series in Engineering and Computer Science book series (SECS, volume 262)


This is the story of the early history of wireless communications using antennas. The antenna was conceived by Dr. Mahlon Looms, a Washington, D.C. dentist, in 1864--at the same time that Prof. James Clerk Maxwell first presented his equations to the Royal Society in London Loomis used 600-fi wires, suspended by kites, a hand-held key to transmit and a galvanometer detector to receive on-off-keyed (OOK) signals at 0.033 baud in October 1866 between two Virginia mountain tops separated by 18 miles. These two-way communications, which were witnessed, provided the impetus for Loomis’U.S.Patent No. 129,971, “Improvement in Telegraphing (Wireless),” dated 30 July 1872. Loomis’ patent was the second U.S. wireless patent, by 3 months, to that of his friend, William Henry Ward, of Auburn, NY. It also inspired HR 772, “Act of Incorporation of Loomis Aerial Telegraph Company,” during the 3rd Session of the 42nd Congress in 1873. This law established the first U.S. wireless company, but the company failed due to losses by Loomis’venture capitalists in the great Chicago fire of 1871 and the “Black Friday” financial crises of the 19th century. Whether Loomis’system utilized electromagnetic (Hertzian) waves, of the type first demonstrated definitively for the first time by Heinrich Rudolph Hertz in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1886 (the year of Loomis’death), or whether his system functioned totally on the basis of electrostatic conduction is unresolved. Loomis’system did radiate electromagnetic waves when his key closed and generated sparks, but it is not clear whether his DC galvanometer could detect these waves due to some hysteresis effect or other nonlinearity. Loomis used the word wireless and he apparently coined the term aerial. Loomis also achieved communications between two ships on the Chesapeake Bay which were separated by 2 miles. This represented the first maritime mobile wireless communications, and it occurred before the birth ofMarchese Guglielmo Marconi in 1874. But it remained for Marconi to recognize and successfully exploit the commercial aspects of wireless communications using Hertzian waves to provide service to governments and to the general public


Wireless Communication Venture Capitalist Atmospheric Electricity Weather Bureau British Patent 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. H. Hagn
    • 1
  • E. Lyon
    • 2
  1. 1.Information and Telecommunications Sciences Center Information, Telecommunications and Automation DivisionSRI InternationalArlingtonCanada
  2. 2.Systems Technology Center Systems Technology DivisionSRI InternationalArlingtonCanada

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