Radio Inventor From Murray, Kentucky?


Let's All Gather Around the Radio!

Let's All Gather Around the Radio!

 

Marconi Stole Kentuckian's Thunder?

Marconi Stole Kentuckian's Thunder?

On This Date in History:

 

 

  Guglielmo Marconi is often the first name that comes to mind when one ponders who invented the radio.  But, like many inventions, Marconi was just the one who made it better or more feasible.  No, the true inventor of radio was a man long forgotten when he was found in his shack in Murray, Kentucky in 1928.  He had starved to death and was buried in an unmarked grave.

The Real Father of Radio

The Real Father of Radio

Marconi was stiill a teenager in 1890 and it is about that time that Nathan B. Stubblefield is thought to have first demonstrated his wireless telephone for some friends on his farm.  He didn’t file a patent.  He just continued to play with his new toy.  A few weeks after Marconi transmitted the letter “s” in morse code across the Atlantic, on New Year’s Day 1902 Stubblefield finally got around to making his first public demonstration.  With about 1000 friends and neighbors in attendance, the low-key man from rural Kentucky spoke softly into a box measuring two square feet and he was heard from 6 listening posts around town.  The observers were amazed.  His 14-year-old son Bernard got into the act by whistling and then playing the harmonica.  Bernard was the first musician to perform on the radio and now we get Britney Spears.  Later that year, Stubblefield went big time with a more publicized and elaborate demostration from a steam launch in the middle of the Potomac River near Washington, DC. 

Stubblefield's Workshop Before the House Burned Down

Stubblefield's Workshop Before the House Burned Down

Now, most industrious inventors would have taken the next logical step which was to exploit his own ingenuity.  He went so far as to patent his wireless telephone and created a company.  But, all he did was sell stock in the company and nothing much else because the New York investors were more interested in perpetrating a fraud than building a company.  Marconi is the one who pioneered wireless telegraphy and is thought of as the father of radio.  But, it was Stubblefield who first projected voices and music over radio waves.  In 1908, he even presented a patent that would put radios into horseless carriages.  He also came up with a battery for portable radios.  Be that as it may and how ahead of his time he was, Stubblefield wasn’t much of a businessman and didn’t really get much help so he made almost no money at all from his inventions and also missed out on the notoriety. 

Stubblefield's Invention?

Stubblefield's Invention?

Stubblefield's Invention Up in Smoke?

Stubblefield's Invention Up in Smoke?

Things didn’t go much better for Nate of Murray.  Not long after he came up with the car radio, his marriage went up in smoke and his house burned to the ground.  His spirit was broken and he withered on the vine, though he did continue to work on new inventions…but…shortly before his death he destroyed all of his inventions and burned the plans.  Maybe he had invented the cell phone.  That is a wireless telephone, right? …or…  Who knows…maybe Nathan Stubblefield invented Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott’s transporter.  Maybe Gene Roddenbery got some of his ideas for Star Trek from Stubblefield?  I mean, today’s cell phone looks a whole lot like the communicator that Captain Kirk used.  If that’s the case, then we can blame Stubblefield for all of those people who cause traffic problems by driving and talking on their cell phones.    In any case, Nathan Stubblefield was a true pioneer in telecommunications but he had no business sense or sense of public relations.  And that’s too bad.   Squeaky wheel gets the grease, I guess.

Big Event In Plains Monday?

Big Event In Plains Monday?

Weather Bottom Line: Forecast remains on track.  Friday morning near freezing then to the 50’s.  Close to 60 or so for the weekend with some clouds.  Few light showers not totally out of the question but also not to menacing late Saturday.  We will push toward 70 or perhaps higher by Tuesday.  At that time, the storm system out in the west that will probably cause an outbreak of severe weather in the plains will have reached maturity and will lose some of it’s dynamic support.  So, when it comes through here midweek, we may see some decent storms but at this point it’s too soon to tell if there will be enough elements in place and if timing issues will be resolved to provide an opportunity for something exciting.  It doesn’t appear that the air is all that cold behind the system as it’s origins are from the west and southwest so we should be cooler but still pretty mild for the latter part of the week.

 
   DAY 4-8 CONVECTIVE OUTLOOK 
   NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
   0358 AM CDT THU MAR 19 2009
  
   VALID 221200Z – 271200Z
  
   …DISCUSSION…
   A SEVERE EVENT REMAINS APPARENT FOR MON. MAR. 23 /DAY 5/…WITH
   MEDIUM-RANGE MODELS CONTINUING TO FORECAST A MID-LEVEL LOW SHIFTING
   EWD OUT OF THE ROCKIES AND ACROSS THE CENTRAL HIGH PLAINS THROUGH
   THE AFTERNOON.  WITH A FAIRLY BROAD/RELATIVELY MOIST BOUNDARY LAYER
   FORECAST TO BE IN PLACE AHEAD OF A SURFACE CYCLONE LIKELY CENTERED
   OVER THE CENTRAL HIGH PLAINS DURING THE AFTERNOON…SETUP APPEARS TO
   FAVOR WIDESPREAD THUNDERSTORM DEVELOPMENT.
  
   WHILE SOMEWHAT MERIDIONAL — PARTICULARLY OVER THE CENTRAL
   PLAINS…WIND FIELD WILL BE PLENTY STRONG TO SUPPORT
   SEVERE/SUPERCELL STORMS — AND THUS ATTM IT CONTINUES TO APPEAR THAT
   A FAIRLY WIDESPREAD SEVERE EVENT IS LIKELY. 
  
   BEYOND DAY 5 — AND PARTICULARLY BEYOND DAY 6…MODELS BEGIN TO
   DIVERGE IN POSITION OF THE MAIN FEATURES…WHICH CASTS UNCERTAINTY
   INTO THE SEVERE FORECAST.  HOWEVER…EVEN GIVEN MODEL
   DIFFERENCES…IT APPEARS ATTM THAT THE PRIMARY SEVERE THREAT WOULD
   OCCUR DAY 5…WITH DECREASING POTENTIAL FARTHER E INTO THE MID MO
   VALLEY REGION FOR DAY 6.
  
   ..GOSS.. 03/19/2009

2 Responses

  1. Stubblefield’s story is a sad one. It’s kind of like our discussion a few weeks ago. Stubblefield had the creativity and intelligence to invent the wireless radio but when it came to the hard work that it took to bring it to market he just didn’t seem to have it. He’d rather piddle around in his shop and invent new things instead of continuing to work and market his most valuable invention. Sad story!

  2. Part of the story that I glossed over was that he sold his radio invention to the New York investors. He went to New York to make a demonstration and it didn’t work. Speculation at the time was that it was due to the rocks. But, more than likely it was due to interference from all of the electrical lines in the city…kinda like your AM radio goes out when you go under power lines today. But, the partners wanted to secretly install underground wires to try and fool the public. Stubblefield pulled out as he figured that the whole enterprise was nothing but a fraud.

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