Alexander Stepanovich Popov

Alexander Stepanovich Popov (sometimes spelled Popoff; Russian: Алекса́ндр Степа́нович Попо́в; March 16 [O.S. March 4] 1859 – January 13 [O.S. December 31, 1905] 1906) was a Russian physicist who is acclaimed in his homeland and some eastern European countries as the inventor of radio.[1][2][3]

Popov's work as a teacher at a Russian naval school led him to explore high frequency electrical phenomena. On May 7, 1895 he presented a paper on a wireless lightning detector he had built that worked via using a coherer to detect radio noise from lightning strikes. This day is celebrated in the Russian Federation as Radio Day. In a March 24, 1896 demonstration, he used radio waves to transmit a message between different campus buildings in St. Petersburg. His work was based on that of another physicist – Oliver Lodge, and contemporaneous with the work of Guglielmo Marconi. Marconi had just registered a patent with the description of the device two months after first transmission of radio signals made by Popov.[4]

Alexander Stepanovich Popov
Alexander Stepanovich Popov
Born16 March 1859
Turyinskiye Rudniki settlement, Perm Governorate, Russian Empire (present-day Krasnoturyinsk, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia)
Died13 January 1906 (aged 46)
St. Peterburg, Russian Empire
Known forRadio
AwardsOrder of St. Anna of 3rd and 2nd grades
Order of Saint Stanislaus (Imperial House of Romanov) of 2nd grade
Silver medal of Alexander III reign honour on the belt of Order of Alexander Nevsky
Prize of Imperial Russian Technical Society
Alexander Popov signature

Early life

Born in the town of Krasnoturinsk, Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Urals as the son of a priest, he became interested in natural sciences when he was a child. His father wanted Alexander to join the priesthood and sent him to the Seminary School at Yekaterinburg.[2] There he developed an interest in science and mathematics and instead of going on to Theology School in 1877 he enrolled at St. Petersburg university where he studied physics.[2][5] After graduation with honors in 1882, he stayed on as a laboratory assistant at the university. However the salary at the university was inadequate to support his family, and in 1883 he took a post as teacher and head of laboratory at the Russian Navy's Torpedo School in Kronstadt on Kotlin Island.[2]

Radio wave receiver

Popovs first receiver
Drawing of Popov's radio wave based lightning detector

Along with his teaching duties at the naval school Popov pursued related areas of research. Trying to solve a problem with the failure in the electrical wire insulation on steel ships (which turned out to be a problem with electrical resonance) led him to further explore oscillations of high frequency electrical currents.[6] His interest in this area of study (including the new field of "Hertzian" or radio waves) was intensified by his trip in 1893 to the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition in the United States where he was able to confer with other researchers in the field.[7]

Popov also read an 1894 article about British physicist Oliver Lodge's experiments related to the discovery of radio waves by German physicist Heinrich Hertz 6 years earlier.[7] On 1 June 1894, after the death of Hertz, British physicist Oliver Lodge gave a memorial lecture on Hertz experiments. He set up a demonstration on the quasi optical nature of Hertzian waves (radio waves) and demonstrated their transmission at distances up to 50 meters.[8] Lodge used a detector called a coherer, a glass tube containing metal filings between two electrodes.[5] When received waves from an antenna were applied to the electrodes, the coherer became conductive allowing the current from a battery to pass through it, with the impulse being picked up by a mirror galvanometer. After receiving a signal, the metal filings in the coherer had to be reset by a manually operated vibrator or by the vibrations of a bell placed on the table nearby that rang every time a transmission was received.[8] Popov set to work to design a more sensitive radio wave receiver that could be used as a lightning detector, to warn of thunderstorms by detecting the electromagnetic pulses of lightning strikes[1] using a coherer receiver.[1][2]

Operating principle

Popov receiver
Circuit of Popov's lightning detector

In Popov's lightning detector the coherer (C) was connected to an antenna (A), and to a separate circuit with a relay (R) and battery (V) which operated an electric bell (B). The radio noise generated by a lightning strike turned on the coherer, the current from the battery was applied to the relay, closing its contacts, which applied current to the electromagnet (E) of the bell, pulling the arm over to ring the bell. Popov added an innovative automatic reset feature of a "self tapping" coherer where the bell arm would spring back and tap the coherer, restoring it to its receptive state.[3] The two chokes (L) in the coherer's leads prevented the radio signal across the coherer from short circuiting by passing through the DC circuit. He connected his receiver to a wire antenna (A) suspended high in the air and to a ground (earth) (G). The antenna idea may have been based on a lightning rod and was an early use of a monopole wire aerial.[9]


On 7 May 1895, Popov presented the paper "On the Relation of Metallic Powders to Electric Oscillations", which described his lightning detector, to the Russian Physical and Chemical Society in St. Petersburg.[7] Most Eastern sources regard Popov's lightning detector as the first radio receiver,[10] and the 7th of May has been celebrated since 1945 in the Russian Federation as "Radio Day".[2] However, there is no evidence Popov sent any type of message on that occasion. The first account of communication by Popov was a demonstration on 24 March 1896 at the Physical and Chemical Society, when some accounts say the Morse code message "ГЕНРИХ ГЕРЦ" ("HEINRICH HERTZ" in Russian) was received from a transmitter 250 meters away and transcribed on the blackboard by the Society president.[2] Historian Charles Susskind in 1962 concluded that Popov did not use radio waves for actual wireless communication before mid-1896.[5]

In 1895 Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi began work on a purpose built wireless telegraphy system based on "Hertzian" (radio) waves, developing a spark-gap transmitter and a much improved automatically-reset coherer receiver. By mid-1895 Marconi had transmitted messages 1/2 mile (1600 meters). He then came up with the idea grounding his transmitter as well as his receiver and by mid-1896 he was transmitting radio messages a mile and a half (2400 meters).[11] Popov and Marconi's early work seems to have been done without knowledge of each other's system although reading Marconi's June 1896 patent disclosures led Popov to develop a long range wireless telegraphy system.[5]

One of Popov's receivers, with chart recorder (white cylinder) to record lightning strikes

His paper on his experiments: "On the relation of metallic powders to electrical oscillations", was published 15 December 1895. He did not apply for a patent for his invention.[3] In July 1895 he installed his receiver and a siphon recorder on the roof of the Institute of Forestry building in St. Petersburg.[1] and was able to detect thunderstorms at a range of 50 km,[5] however he was also aware of its communication potential. His paper, read at the 7 May 1895 meeting, concluded[2][5]

I can express my hope that my apparatus will be applied for signaling at great distances by electric vibrations of high frequency, as soon as there will be invented a more powerful generator of such vibrations.

In 1896, the article depicting Popov's invention was reprinted in the 'Journal of the Russian Physical and Chemical Society'. In March 1896, he effected transmission of radio waves between different campus buildings in St. Petersburg. In November 1897, the French entrepreneur Eugene Ducretet made a transmitter and receiver based on wireless telegraphy in his own laboratory. According to Ducretet, he built his devices using Popov's lightning detector as a model. By 1898, Ducretet was manufacturing equipment of wireless telegraphy based on Popov's instructions. At the same time Popov effected ship-to-shore communication over a distance of 6 miles in 1898 and 30 miles in 1899.

Later work

1989 CPA 6117
Radio pioneer Alexander Popov on the 1989 USSR stamp. The text says "Inventor of radio, A. S. Popov, 1859–1906. Demonstration of the first radio, 1895"

In 1900 a radio station was established under Popov's instructions on Hogland island (Suursaari) to provide two-way communication by wireless telegraphy between the Russian naval base and the crew of the battleship General-Admiral Apraksin. The battleship had run aground on Hogland island in the Gulf of Finland in November 1899. The crew of the Apraksin were not in immediate danger, but the water in the Gulf began to freeze. Due to bad weather and bureaucratic red tape, the crew of Apraksin did not arrive until January 1900 to establish a wireless station on Hogland Island. By February 5, however, messages were being received reliably. The wireless messages were relayed to Hogland Island by a station some 25 miles away at Kymi (nowadays Kotka) on the Finnish coast. Kotka was selected as the location for the wireless relay station because it was the point closest to Hogland Island served by telegraph wires connected to Russian naval headquarters.[12]

By the time the Apraksin was freed from the rocks by the icebreaker Yermak at the end of April, 440 official telegraph messages had been handled by the Hogland Island wireless station. Besides the rescue of the Apraksin's crew, more than 50 Finnish fishermen, who were stranded on a piece of drift ice in the Gulf of Finland, were saved by the icebreaker Yermak following distress telegrams sent by wireless telegraphy. In 1901 Alexander Popov was appointed as professor at the Electrotechnical Institute, which now bears his name. In 1905 he was elected director of the institute.

Death and legacy

A. S. Popov
Monument to Popov in Yekaterinburg city

In 1905 he became seriously ill and died of a brain hemorrhage on January 13, 1906.[13] A minor planet, 3074 Popov, discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Zhuravlyova in 1979, is named after him.[14] At ITU Telecom World 2011, Igor Shchyogolev, Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation alongside Hamadoun Touré, Secretary General of the ITU, inaugurated the "Alexander Stepanovich Popov" conference room at ITU's headquarters in Geneva.


Some of his descendents escaped to Manchuria during the Bolshevik Revolution and eventually made their way to the United States. Among others were his cousin, Dr. Paul Popov, who became a prominent physician in San Francisco and Paul's son, Egor Popov (1913–2001), who became a UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Civil and Environmental Engineering.[15][16]

See also



  1. ^ a b c d Smith-Rose, Reginald Leslie (2013). "Alexandr Popov". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h McKenna, Joe (2007). "Aleksandr Popov's Contributions to Wireless Communication". IEEE Engineering Hall of Fame. Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b c (author name redacted) (January 1960). "Did Alexandr Popov invent radio?" (PDF). NSA Technical Journal. US: National Security Agency. 5 (1): 35–41. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 6 November 2013. declassified 8 January 2008
  4. ^ Би-би-си, Артем Кречетников; Москва. "Кто на самом деле изобрел радио?". BBC News Русская служба.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Huurdeman, Anton A. (2003). The Worldwide History of Telecommunications. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 205–207. ISBN 0471205052. A picture of Popov's receiver appears on p. 207, fig. 12.2
  6. ^ M. Radovsky, Alexander Popov Inventor of Radio, The Minerva Group, Inc.- 2001, pages 37–38
  7. ^ a b c Christopher H. Sterling, Encyclopedia of Radio, Routledge – 2003, page 1820
  8. ^ a b Sungook Hong, Wireless: From Marconi's Black-box to the Audion, MIT Press, 2001, pages 30–32
  9. ^ Sungook Hong, Wireless: From Marconi's Black-box to the Audion, MIT Press, 2001, page 202
  10. ^ Electronics World, Volume 64, Ziff-Davis Publishing Company – 1960, page 78
  11. ^ Sungook Hong, Wireless: From Marconi's Black-box to the Audion, MIT Press – 2001, page 202 (notes)
  12. ^ "Aleksandr Popov". IEEE Global History Network. IEEE. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
  13. ^ Oakes, Elizabeth H. (14 May 2014). A to Z of STS Scientists. Infobase Publishing. p. 253. ISBN 9781438109251. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  14. ^ Dictionary of Minor Planet Names, 2003, vol.1, p.253
  15. ^ [1] Engineering Pioneer Egor Popov
  16. ^ [2] Connections: The EERI Oral History Series. Egor Popov


External links

1859 in science

The year 1859 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1895 in science

The year 1895 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1906 in science

The year 1906 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

3074 Popov

3074 Popov, provisional designation 1979 YE9, is a carbonaceous Nysian asteroid from the inner regions of the asteroid belt, approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) in diameter. It was discovered on 24 December 1979, by Soviet–Russian astronomer Lyudmila Zhuravleva at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Nauchnyj on the Crimean peninsula. The B-type asteroid has an unknown rotation period. It was named after Russian physicist Alexander Stepanovich Popov, an early radio pioneer in Russia.

A.S. Popov Central Museum of Communications

The A.S. Popov Central Museum of Communications was founded in 1872 and is one of the oldest museums of science and technology in the world. It is located in the historic centre of Saint Petersburg, Russia, near Saint Isaac's Square.

Alexander Popov (film)

Alexander Popov (Russian: Александр Попов) is a 1949 biographical film about the life and work of Alexander Stepanovich Popov, who was the notable physicist and electrical engineer, and early developer of radio communication.

All-Russia Exhibition 1896

The All-Russia industrial and art exhibition 1896 in Nizhny Novgorod was held from May 28 (June 9 N.S.) till October 1 (13 N.S.), 1896. The 1896 exhibition was the largest pre-revolution exhibition in the Russian Empire and was organized with money allotted by Nicholas II, Emperor of Russia. The All-Russia industrial conference was held together with the exhibition.

Aptekarsky Island

Aptekarsky Island (Russian: Апте́карский о́стров, pronounced [ɐˈpʲtʲɛkərstkʲɪj ˈostrəf]) is a small island situated in the northern part of the Neva delta. It is separated from Petrogradsky Island by the Karpovka River, from Kamenny Island and Krestovsky Island by the Malaya Nevka and from the Vyborgskaya region of St-Petersburg by the Bolshaya Nevka. It has an area of approximately two square kilometres. The name is thought to originate from the Finnish Korpisaari - "The island with the slumbering forest" or Korppisaari - "Crow's Island".

Aptekarsky Island is connected to Petrogradsky Island by seven bridges: Aptekarsky Bridge, Petropavlovsky Bridge, Silyn Bridge, Geslerovsky Bridge, Karpovsky Bridge, Barochny Bridge and Molodyozhny Bridge. It is connected to Kamenny Island by Kamennoostrovsky Bridge and to the Vyborgskaya region by Kantemirovsky Bridge and Grenadersky Bridge.

In 1714, Tsar Peter I gave orders to transform the island into a headquarters for the Medical Clerical Office and the Main Pharmacy. The island's name, Aptekarsky, means pharmacy in Russian. On the southeastern part of the island, a garden was set up for the cultivation of medicinal herbs. Over time, it became the Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden and eventually, the Komarov Botanical Institute was founded here.

The island expanded from medicinal herbs into medical devices with the founding of the first medical device laboratory. This laboratory has since become the firm Krasnogvardeets, which is based in St. Petersburg.

During the reigns of Paul I and Alexander I of Russia, the area became a resort destination as Russian aristocrats came to the island and built their country estates.

As the industrialization of the island grew, the 20th century brought apartment construction to house the new workers. A number of the apartment houses were designed by such renowned Russian architects as Vladimir Shuko, designer of the Russian State Library in Moscow, and Fyodor Lidval, designer of the Hotel Astoria in St. Petersburg.

A number of significant structures still stand on the island today including the First Lensoveta House (designed by Yevgeniy Levinson and Ivan Fomin), several buildings for television broadcast center (designed by Sergei Speransky), the television tower and the Youth Palace.

Major educational institutions include the Saint Petersburg State Electrotechnical University, Saint-Petersburg State Chemical Pharmaceutical Academy and the Experimental Medicine Institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Science. The St. Petersburg Hydro Meteorological Center is also located on the island.

Notable individuals associated with the island include:

Ivan Pavlov - physiologist who first described the phenomenon of classical conditioning

Alexander Stepanovich Popov - pioneer in the invention of the radio

Feodor Chaliapin - Russian opera star

Pyotr Stolypin - Prime Minister of Russia (1906-1911)

Alexander Opekushin - Russian sculptor

Pavel Filonov - Russian avant-garde painter

Mikhail Anikushin - Russian sculptor

Communications receiver

A communications receiver is a type of radio receiver used as a component of a radio communication link. This is in contrast to a broadcast receiver which is used to receive radio broadcasts. A communication receiver receives parts of the radio spectrum not used for broadcasting, that includes amateur, military, aircraft, marine, and other bands. They are often used with a radio transmitter as part of a two way radio link for shortwave radio or amateur radio communication, although they are also used for shortwave listening.

Egor Popov

Egor P. Popov (Егор Павлович Попов; February 6, 1913 – April 19, 2001) was a structural and seismic engineer who helped transform the design of buildings, structures, and civil engineering around earthquake-prone regions.

A relative of inventor Alexander Stepanovich Popov, Egor Popov was born in Kiev, Russian Empire (now capital of Ukraine), and after moving to America in 1927, he eventually earned a B.S. d from UC Berkeley, his master's degree from MIT and his doctorate degree from Stanford in 1946.

During his career, Popov was primarily famous for his work doing research for the University of California, Berkeley. Some of his accomplishments include: working with buckling problems for NASA in Houston, Texas, involvement with the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge, assisting with pipe testing for the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline, developing the Steel Moment Resisting Frame (resistance to earthquake forces), and eccentrically braced frames (ebf's).

Eugène Adrien Ducretet

Eugène Adrien Ducretet (November 27, 1844 – 1915) was a French scientific instrument manufacturer, who performed some of the first experiments on wireless telegraphy (radio communication) in France. His father, Louis Joseph Ducretet, was a Savoy textiles merchant who moved to Paris. He never completed a formal education, leaving primary school at age 15. After several years apprenticed to Paris engineer Paul-Gustav Froment, Ducretet opened his own workshop in 1864 at 21 Rue des Ursulines where with a few employees he manufactured classical physics research, teaching and demonstration apparatus, such as galvanometers, Wimshurst machines, and Crookes tubes. Over time his reputation grew and he became instrument supplier to several large Paris educational and scientific institutions. He was awarded a gold medal for his quality instruments at the 1878 Paris Universal Exposition and from then on his firm was a regular presence at important international expositions, winning another gold at the 1881 International Electricity Exposition in Paris. He was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1885.

Ducretet's work brought him into close contact with many prominent physicists of his day, from whom he learned a lot. He continued his education, attending courses at the Sorbonne and College de France as a 'auditeur libre'. In 1897, hearing about Guglielmo Marconi's pioneering experiments in wireless telegraphy (radio transmission), he built a transmitter and receiver and began his own experiments, becoming the first person in France to transmit radio waves. In November 1897 he transmitted radio signals 400 meters between his workshop and the Panthéon, attracting the interest of French President Félix Faure. On November 5, 1898 he caused a sensation with a public demonstration of wireless communication in the presence of representatives of the Académie des Sciences between the third floor of the Eiffel Tower and the Panthéon 4 km away. In 1897 he wrote to Russian physicist Alexander Stepanovich Popov, who had invented one of the first practical radio receivers but had not developed it, suggesting a collaboration. In 1898 he began to build radiotelegraph equipment using the Popov design. Between 1899 and 1904 he sold some of the first wireless stations to the Russian Navy, but the company was too small to provide the volume Russia needed. With his partner Ernest Roger he invented a type of telegraph key used in wireless telegraphy transmitters. In 1901 he wrote a book on the construction of wireless equipmentDucretet married Amelie Vallat in 1866, and they had three children. When he died he left the company to his son Fernand and partner Ernst Roger. The company was sold to Thomson-Houston in 1931.

Lightning detection

A lightning detector is a device that detects lightning produced by thunderstorms. There are three primary types of detectors: ground-based systems using multiple antennas, mobile systems using a direction and a sense antenna in the same location (often aboard an aircraft), and space-based systems.

The first such device was invented in 1894 by Alexander Stepanovich Popov. It also was the first radio receiver in the world.

Ground-based and mobile detectors calculate the direction and severity of lightning from the current location using radio direction-finding techniques along with an analysis of the characteristic frequencies emitted by lightning. Ground-based systems use triangulation from multiple locations to determine distance, while mobile systems estimate distance using signal frequency and attenuation. Space-based detectors on satellites can be used to locate lightning range, bearing and intensity by direct observation.

Ground-based lightning detector networks are used by meteorological services like the National Weather Service in the United States, the Meteorological Service of Canada, the European Cooperation for Lightning Detection, the Institute for Ubiquitous Meteorology (Ubimet) and by other organizations like electrical utilities and forest fire prevention services.

Maly Vysotsky Island

Maly Vysotsky Island or Malyj Vysotskij Island (Russian: Малый Высоцкий, Finnish: Ravansaari) is an island in northwest Russia, that was leased to Finland. It is located in Vyborg Bay, next to Vysotsk, 12 km southwest of Vyborg.

Between 1918 and 1940, the island was a part of Finnish territory, and was called Ravansaari. It was inhabited by nearly one thousand Finns, who earned their livelihood mainly from the timber industry. During World War II, in 1940, it was annexed by the Soviet Union (along with the surrounding territory) and became a part of the Karelo-Finnish SSR. In 1941, it was recaptured by Finnish troops and returned to Finland. In June 1944, the island fell to the Red Army, and once again became part of the Soviet Union, eventually a small part of the Russian Federation. The island was renamed Malyj Vysotsky. A treaty was signed in 1963 to lease the island and the nearby Saimaa Canal to Finland for fifty years.

Because of the treaty and the island's isolation from both Finland and Russia, radio amateurs made Maly Vysotsky Island an entity of its own, much like Hawaii or Alaska. This and the fact that Alexander Stepanovich Popov did his first radio experiments in the area at the turn of the 20th century made the island an attractive destination for DX-peditioners. All such expeditions were organized by a Finnish-Russian group, the first of which occurred in 1988.

Under the new Saimaa Canal lease treaty signed by the Finnish and Russian governments in 2010, the island was to be managed again by Russian authorities. On the 17th of February 2012 the treaty went into effect, and Malyj Vysotsky was deleted from the DXCC list of current amateur radio entities.

Musée de Radio France

The Musée de Radio France was a museum operated by Radio France and located in the Maison de Radio-France, near the Pont de Grenelle in the XVIe arrondissement at 116, avenue du Président Kennedy, Paris, France. The museum was established in 1966, and contained a remarkable collection of radios and televisions from their origins to the present day, including the 1793 telegraph by Claude Chappe and early crystal radios. The museum's 2000 objects include prototypes and commercial devices, archival documents, photographs, and manuscripts, replicas of early radio laboratories and studios, and exhibits featuring research by Edouard Branly, Lee de Forest, Heinrich Hertz, Guglielmo Marconi, James Clerk Maxwell, and Alexander Stepanovich Popov. In 2007, the museum was closed to the public due to the renovation of the Maison de Radio France.

NPL network

The NPL Network or NPL Data Communications Network was a local area computer network operated by a team from the National Physical Laboratory in England that pioneered the concept of packet switching. Following a pilot experiment during 1967, elements of the first version of the network, Mark I, became operational during 1969 then fully operational in 1970, and the Mark II version operated from 1973 until 1986. The NPL network, followed by the wide area ARPANET in the United States, were the first two computer networks that implemented packet switching, and were interconnected in the early 1970s. The NPL network was designed and directed by Donald Davies.

Outline of telecommunication

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to telecommunication:

Telecommunication – the transmission of signals over a distance for the purpose of communication. In modern times, this process almost always involves the use of electromagnetic waves by transmitters and receivers, but in earlier years it also involved the use of drums and visual signals such as smoke, fire, beacons, semaphore lines and other optical communications.

Popov (crater)

Popov is a crater on the far side of the Moon, just beyond the eastern limb. It measures approximately 71.4 kilometers (44.4 miles) in diameter and is located along the very edge of the area of surface that is sometimes brought into view of the Earth during periods of favorable libration and illumination. However even at such times it is not prominent and can only be viewed edge-on.

Yermak (1898 icebreaker)

Yermak (Russian: Ермак, IPA: [jɪrˈmak]) was a Russian and later Soviet icebreaker. It was the first polar icebreaker in the world, having a strengthened hull shaped to ride over and crush pack ice.

Network topology
and switching

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