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One Hundred years of the "Wireless Telephone"

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This week marks the 100th anniversary of what is thought to be the first ever patent for a wireless telephone device. The inventor, Nathan Stubblefield was an American inventor and Kentucky melon farmer and it has been claimed that Stubblefield invented the radio before either Nikola Tesla or Guglielmo Marconi.

However his devices seem to have worked by audio frequency induction or, later, audio frequency earth conduction (creating disturbances in the near-field region) rather than by radio frequency radiation for radio transmission telecommunications.

On May 12, 1908, he received U.S. patent 887,357 for his Wireless Telephone, using the voice frequency induction system - which is thought to be the first ever patent for a "wireless telephone".

He said in the patent that it would be useful for "securing telephonic communications between moving vehicles and way stations". The diagrams attached with the patent shows wireless telephony from trains, boats, and horse drawn wagons. In foreign patents he showed wireless telephony with cars. But there is no indication he was using voice-modulated continuous high frequency waves, as used for radio today.

Although his invention did not directly lead to a commercial product, it did receive widespread media attention at the time, including an entry in Scientific American.

Stubblefield later lived in a self-imposed isolation in a crude shelter near Almo, Kentucky and eventually starved to death on March 28, 1928. He was buried in the Bowman Cemetery in Murray, Kentucky.

The full patent is available on the US Patent Office website.


Opening page of the patent


Diagram of the network and a carriage

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Tags: radiation  patents  radio frequency  patent