The Secrets of Two Technical Revolutions
In February 1896 Guglielmo Marconi ( 1874-1937) sailed from Italy to England with his mother. He brought with him his experimental equipment for wireless telegraphy, and the plan was to contact some wealthy people with whom his mother was connected and persuade them to provide capital for the exploitation of his ideas ( Marconi ( 1962), 33; Baker ( 1970), 28; Jolly ( 1972), 34). The Marconis first lived in one of the apartments that Sophia Gerstner rented out at 71 Hereford Road, in a part of London then called Westbourne Park, a large-scale speculative development of terraced family houses that had been built around 1850. 'Until 1830 this was one of the most beautiful rural spots for which the parish of Paddington was renowned' ( Clunn ( 1932), 385). Perhaps the speculative builders hoped that its glorious past would ensure a glorious future, but by 1896 the houses were nearly all in multiple occupation. The railway into Paddington station had been widened considerably, so that the street in Westbourne Park in which Thomas Hardy ( 1840-1928) had lived from 1863 to 1874 had been demolished on one side. If Hardy had still lived there, he would have looked out of his house across a narrow road to see nothing but a plain brick wall.
Why did the well-connected Mrs Marconi choose to live in such poor surroundings? Why do we find Marconi giving a whole list of addresses in this area over the next eighteen months: 21 Burlington Road, now completely demolished; 67 Talbot Road, just round the corner from a final address, again in Hereford Road at 101? The explanation is almost certainly the kind of work Marconi needed the rooms for. Perhaps his mother was left at No. 71 while Guglielmo took the other rooms for his work, perhaps following complaints from Mrs Gerstner as to the noise and smell of his