Experimental form of Marconi Company magnetic detector, 1900-1910

Earliest experimental form of magnetic detector developed by

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Earliest experimental form of magnetic detector developed by
Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Earliest experimental form of magnetic detector developed by the Marconi Company, with fixed soft iron core and single layer primary coil on core and telephone circuit winding in bobbin surrounding the primary coil, probably made by Marconi's Wireless Telegraphy Company, Chelmsford, Essex, England, 1900-1910.

In the developed form of Marconi’s magnetic detector, an endless band of iron wires is moved by clockwork past permanent magnets at about eight centimetres a second. At the point where the moving band experiences a strong field from the magnets, it is surrounded by two coils ofwire; one coil carries the radio-frequency signal from the aerial, the other is connected to headphones. The signal received from a spark transmitter consists of separate bursts of radio frequency current, recurring at audio frequency. As each burst occurs, wire that has entered the coils since the previous burst responds to the magnets, inducing an impulse of current through the headphones, and the rapid succession of such impulses gives an audible note. This is the earliest surviving experimental example where a separate horseshoe magnet is held near the coils to provide the changing magnetic field.


Radio Communication
Object Number:
wood (unidentified), copper (alloy) and textile
overall: 50 mm x 112 mm x 51 mm, .052 kg
radio component
Donated by the Institution of Electrical Engineers