Who Discovered the Radio Waves


Heinrich Hertz German Physicist and Professor Famous for Hz CPS Unit of Frequency. A brief biography of Heinrich Hertz, who discovered the radio waves, and that heat and light are electromagnetic waves, a precursor to wireless telegraphy. He was a German physicist who expanded the electromagnetic theory of light pioneered by Michael Faraday, and later by Maxwell. He is best-known for Hertz (Hz) unit of frequency per second cycle.

He was the first to satisfactorily demonstrate the presence of electromagnetic waves, by building an apparatus that produced and detected the VHF/UHF radio waves. When Hertz sent the first radiation pulses across his laboratory he had no idea of the impact his work will have on history. He died at a young age of 37, on New Year’s Day, 1894.

Early Life of Heinrich Hertz

Heinrich Rudolf Heinz was born on February 22, 1857, in Hamburg, Germany, to a cultured family. His father, Gustav Ferdinand Hertz, was a prominent lawyer, who had converted to Christianity, and his mother was Anna Elisabeth Pfefferforn. He had three younger brothers and a younger sister.In 1880, he earned his PhD from the University of Berlin and worked as assistant to the eminent physicist Hermann von Helmhotz.

Three years later, in 1883, he took a post as lecturer in physics at the University of Kiel, and two years after, he became professor of experimental physics at the Karlsruhe Polytechnic. He also married Elizabeth Doll, daughter of a professor at the institution.

Hertz Scientific Mind

When Hertz started his experimental work at the University of Bonn, he was aware of the pioneering work that was left behind by British scientist James Clerk Maxwell, who had produced a series of mathematical equations that predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves. That time that no one had found a way of creating them.

In 1887, Hertz changed all that.

Hertz Begins His Experiments

As a child he had enjoyed building things. He set up an oscillator made of polished brass balls, each connected to an induction coil. The balls were separated by a tiny gap and when Hertz applied a current to the oils, sparks would leap across the gap.

He reasoned that if Maxwell’s prediction were correct, each spark would emit electromagnetic waves that should radiate through the laboratory.

Testing Maxwell’s Theory

He made a simple receiver consisting of loop of wire. At the end of the loop were two more small balls, again separated by a tiny gap. The receiver was placed several yards from the oscillator.

The theory states that if electromagnetic waves were spreading from the oscillator sparks, they would induce a current in the loop that e that would send sparks across the gap.

The Result of Hertz’s Experiments

Maxwell’s theory was proved right as the first transmission and reception of electromagnetic waves were produced.

Hertz’s Accidental Discoveries

During his experiment on electromagnetic waves, Hertz also accidentally discovered the photoelectric effect in which light falling on special surfaces can generate electricity.

Aside from the electromagnetic or electric waves (“Hertzian waves”), Hertz also showed that their velocity and length could be measured and that light and heat are electromagnetic waves.

Hertz Legacy

In later years, due to Heinrich Hertz’s discoveries, the establishment of a wireless telegraphy (radio) was carried over and refined by Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian electrical engineer who built the first radio equipment.

To recognize his work, the radio wave unit of frequency, which is a cycle per second, is named a hertz. It is used to measure periodic events, the most common is to describe radio and audio frequencies.

In equation form: 1 Hertz (Frequency) = 1 CPS (cycle per second)

Thanks to Heinrich Hertz, humankind immensely benefits from all types of electromagnetic spectrum and radiation that includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared heat and light.

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