"The Father of Radio Broadcasting", Reginald Fessenden, the eldest son of an Anglican Minister, was born in 1866 in East reg FessendenBolton (near Sherbrooke), Quebec. His boyhood years were spent in Ontario - first in Fergus (north of Guelph) and later in Niagara Falls.

From his home in Fergus, Ontario, Fessenden closely followed the work of Alexander Graham Bell Bell, and he never forgot his dream of transmitting words without wires.  When he was only 10 years old, Reginald watched Bell demonstrate the telephone in his lab in Brantford, Ontario and later make the first long distance phone call in history, from Paris to Brantford, Ontario.  

 Few people shared Fessenden's belief that broadcasting voices was possible. When he asked the opinion of the great Thomas Edison, Edison replied, "Fezzie, what do you say are man's chances of jumping over the moon? I think one is as likely as the other." - - - Edison was wrong.

It took six years for Fessenden to refine his invention but, on Christmas Eve 1906, Fessenden made the first radio broadcast in history. Radio operators on ships in the Atlantic were shocked to hear a human voice emitting from the equipment they used to receive Morse code. Many operators called their Captains to the radio room, where they heard Fessenden make a short speech, play a record, and give a rendition of "O Holy Night" on his violin.

Discovering a way to broadcast human voice by radio is only one of Fessenden's accomplishments - during his life he came up with over 500 other inventions including the Fathometer or depth finder which are reflected in the words of the memorial above the vault of Fessenden's final resting place (see top photo) on the island of Bermuda.

"By his genius distant lands converse and men sail unafraid upon the deep."

There is lots more to read on Fessenden:

  • 2006 Simulation of Fessenden's Christmas Eve Broadcast Click Here

  • Dr. Jack Belrose of the CRC in Ottawa recreated Fessies early experiment with similar success.  Click here for the story.

  • Click here for a full biography in a reprinted from THE CAT'S WHISKER Official Voice of the Canadian Vintage Wireless Association Vol. 3, No. 1 - March 1973

Back to Early years Menu page

  [ Top ]

Last updated January 17, 2008

1998 - 2004 Hammond Museum of Radio

Web space courtesy of Information Gateway Services
Kitchener-Waterloo

35347