Monday, March 26, 2007

Nathan Stubblefield

Nathan Stubblefield, born in 1860, was an eccentric melon farmer from Murray, KY. He was a voracious reader and styled himself as a self-taught scientist and inventor. As early as 1885, he had invented several different wireless telephone devices. And wireless telephony is, of course, for all intents and purposes, radio. This was years before Marconi got official credit for inventing radio.
(Even without Stubblefield, Marconi still wouldn't be the true inventor of radio - Nikola Tesla invented it before Marconi. Marconi, in fact, used Tesla's own patents as research materials. Tesla, in turn, was among the curious onlookers in attendance at Stubblefield's 1902 wireless demonstration in Philadelphia.)
In 1892 Stubblefield performed the world's first wireless broadcast in Murray, broadcasting speech and music. Later he gave a very successful demonstration on the Potomac in Washington, D.C., yet still success eluded him without proper marketing.
Stubblefield was very secretive and mysterious about his inventions, and only became more and more so as years progressed. He entered into a business partnership with a company that promised to market his wireless telephone but instead let it languish, suppressed his patent, and paid him only $800 and a trunk full of worthless stock certificates.
Stubblefield died a crazed hermit in his shack in the wilderness. He destroyed all his prototypes, fearful of his inventions being stolen again by big-city slickers. He was buried in Stubblefield Cemetery in Murray, KY.
In the years since, many important voices have given Stubblefield the credit he is due, but the history books still have yet to include him. To this day there are debunkers who try to side-step Stubblefield's pioneering work by claiming that his inventions only utilized induction transmission, not radio transmission. This is not true, and even if it were, the term "radio" had a vaguer definition in those days, effectively referring to any form of wireless transmission, regardless of the means. Any idiot with common sense, then or now, can tell you that if it broadcasts wirelessly, it is radio. The word radio was originally a contrived term meant to supplant the slightly more mystical term "ether" that had been in vogue.


Anonymous said...

Hello Curt & Inez!
I'm writing a book about people who played the most important role in inventing mobile phone.

I'd like to get as much as possible information about your genious ancestor.

Please reply me to or

Anonymous said...

Hello, we are producing a new invention series for the BBC in the United Kingdom and I would be very interested to talk to you about Nathans work. Please email me at - look forward to hearing from you. Lucy