David Edward Hughes
|David Edward Hughes|
David Edward Hughes
|Born||16 May 1831
London or Corwen, Denbighshire
|Died||22 January 1900
|Known for||Microphone, Semiconductor, Diode, Invention of radio, Crystal radio detector, Crystal radio, Radio transmitter, Radio receiver, Teleprinter, Hughes Medal|
David Edward Hughes (16 May 1831 – 22 January 1900), was a Welsh scientist and musician. Hughes invented the first working radio communication system, the first semiconductor diode crystal radio receiver, the first printing telegraph, and the first microphone. He was also a harpist, and a professor of music.
He was born in 1831, the son of a musically talented family hailing originally from Y Bala (the place of birth was either London or Corwen, Denbighshire) and emigrated to the United States at the age of seven. He was an experimental physicist, mostly in the areas of electricity and signals. He also invented an improved microphone, which was a modification of Thomas Edison's carbon telephone transmitter. He revived the term "microphone" to describe the transmitter's ability to transmit extremely weak sounds to a Bell telephone receiver. He invented the induction balance (later used in metal detectors). Despite Hughes' facility as an experimenter, he had little mathematical training. He was a friend of William Henry Preece.
Hughes came from a Welsh musical family. At only six years old, he is known to have played the harp to a very high standard. At an early age, Hughes developed such musical ability that he is reported to have attracted attention of Herr Hast, an eminent German pianist in America who procured for him a professorship of music at St. Joseph's College in Bardstown, Kentucky.
In 1855 Hughes designed a printing telegraph system, and in less than two years a number of small telegraph companies, including Western Union in early stages of development, united to form one large corporation – Western Union Telegraph Co. to carry on the business of telegraphy on the Hughes system. In Europe, the Hughes Telegraph System became an international standard.
Invention of radio
In 1879, Hughes discovered that sparks would generate a radio signal that could be detected by listening to a telephone receiver using his new microphone design as a detector. He developed his spark-gap transmitter and receiver into a working communication system using trial and error experiments, until eventually he could demonstrate the ability to send and receive Morse code signals out to a range limited to 500 yards (460 m). Prominent attendees of the demonstrations were Sir William Crookes Sir William Henry Preece, William Grylls Adams, and James Dewar.
Hughes demonstrated his technology to representatives of the Royal Society in February 1880, but they were not convinced that it was truly radio, and not merely induction. While Hughes was continuing his wireless telegraphy research, Hertz's papers were published, and then he thought it was too late to bring forward these earlier experiments. Hughes' work was not published until a brief mention of it in 1892, and a full magazine article was written about it in 1899. A book about it was published in 1899 and 1901. However, his work was not done in obscurity. His substantial contributions to science achieved wide recognition during his lifetime, from his peers within the scientific community.
Despite the initial erroneous dismissal of his radio system, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1880, and won their Royal Medal in 1885. He became one of the most highly decorated inventors of his time. His many accolades made him known to radio pioneers who would refine his work in later years.
Indeed, the Hughes Medal was created by the Royal Society of London in his honour, to be awarded to other scientists "in recognition of an original discovery in the physical sciences, particularly electricity and magnetism or their applications". A listing follows of Hughes Medal recipients honoured for achievements directly applicable to the advancement of radio science and technology (click to show table).
Notably, the radio receiver technology of David E. Hughes surpassed the simplistic spark-gap device that would first be studied by later radio researchers. He discovered that his microphone design exhibited unusual properties in the presence of radio signals. He experimented with the discovery, and described his creation of both the device classically known as a "coherer", and an improved semiconductor carbon and steel point-contact rectifying diode, which he also called a "coherer". The point-contact diode version of the device is now known as a crystal radio detector, and was the key component of his sensitive crystal radio receiver.
Point-contact diodes had been independently discovered by other scientists. They were later studied and described in detail by J.C. Bose, in his research on their use in radio receivers. John Ambrose Fleming earned a Hughes Medal after he improved the Hughes diode receiver component with his invention of a vacuum tube diode, which could be operated more reliably than the semiconductor technology of the time. Fleming's US patent for the vacuum tube rectifier diode was invalidated due to the prior art of the other diode researchers who preceded him.
Elihu Thomson recognised the Hughes claim to be the first to transmit radio. Hughes himself said "with characteristic modesty" that Hertz's experiments were "far more conclusive than mine", and that Marconi's "efforts at demonstration merit the success he has received...[and] the world will be right in placing his name on the highest pinnacle, in relation to aerial electric telegraphy".
He became one of the most highly decorated scientists of his time. Despite the initial erroneous dismissal of his radio system, he was still elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1880 and won their Royal Medal in 1885. He became one of the most highly decorated inventors of his time, with honours that included:
- A Grand Gold Medal awarded at the Paris Exhibition, in 1867.
- Royal Society gold Medal in 1885.
- Society of Arts Albert Gold Medal in 1897.
- Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, presented by Napoleon III for his inventions and discoveries in 1860, granting him the title "Commander of the Imperial Order of the Legion of Honour".
He was also awarded:
- The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus (Italy)
- The Order of the Iron Crown (Austria) which carried with it the title of Baron (Freiherr)
- The Order of Saint Anne (Russia)
- The Noble Order of Saint Michael (Bavaria)
- Commander of the Imperial Order of the Grand Cross of the Medjidie (Turkey)
- Commander of the Royal and Distinguished Order of Carlos III (Spain)
- The Grand Officer's Star
- Collar of the Royal Order of Takovo (Serbia)
- Officer of the Order of Leopold (Belgium)
- David E Hughes, U.S. Patent 14,917 Telegraph (with alphabetic keyboard and printer) issued 20 May 1856
- David E Hughes, U.S. Patent 22,531 Duplex Telegraph issued 4 January 1859
- David E Hughes, U.S. Patent 22,770 Printing Telegraph (with type-wheel) issued 25 January 1859
- "David Hughes". Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
- Anon. "88. David Edward Hughes". 100 Welsh Heroes. Culturenet Cymru. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
- Prof. D. E. Hughes' Research in Wireless Telegraphy, The Electrician, Volume 43, 1899, pages 35, 40–41, 93, 143–144, 167, 217, 401, 403, 767
- A History of Wireless Telegraphy (2nd edition, revised), J.J. Fahie, 1899, pages 289–316:
- Hughes's original notes preserved in a British museum
- Short bio by Janice B. Edwards
- Before We Went Wireless. Biography by Ivor Hughes and David Ellis Evans, published 2011.
- Anon (26 January 1900). "Obituary: David Edward Hughes". The ELECTRICIAN (London): 457–458. Retrieved 29 June 2009., The Electrician, Volume 45
- A History of Wireless Telegraphy by J.J.Fahie, 1901.
- Wireless telegraphy: a popular exposition By George William von Tunzelmann. The Office of "Knowledge", 1902. Pages 60–65.
- SOME POSSIBILITIES OF ELECTRICITY, The Fortnightly Review, Volume 57, William Crookes, 1 February 1892, pages 174–176
- The Story of Wireless Telegraphy by A. T. Story
- One Show BBC television. Segment— David Edward Hughes—broadcast 24 June 2009
- Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Volume 30, 1899, pages 373, 468–469.
- "2 in U.S. hono by Royal Society". The New York Times. 3 November 1939. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
- Nature. Nature Publishing Group. p. 109.
- Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. JSTOR 20023099. Missing or empty
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- Bell Telephone Magazine. American Telephone and Telegraph Company Public Relations Dept. 1936. p. 59.
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- Wasson, Tyler (1987). Nobel Prize Winners: An H.W. Wilson Biographical Dictionary. Wiley. p. 30. ISBN 0-8242-0756-4.
- Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1936. p. 480.
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- Parker, Sybil P. (1980). McGraw-Hill Modern Scientists and Engineers: A-G. McGraw-Hill Book Company. p. 56.
- Matthew, H. C. G. (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. p. 798. ISBN 0-19-280089-2.
- Globe, May 12, 1899.
- Instrument for converting alternate electric currents into continuous currents: Rectifying vacuum tube diode. GB24,805 and US803684, granted to Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, 7 November 1905 
- Media related to David Edward Hughes at Wikimedia Commons
- "Hughes, David Edward". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.