Alexander Stepanovich Popov
- As a navy engineer, Popov was interested in developing a communication
system for ships. Inspired by the detection of electromagnetic
radiation by Hertz in 1888, he started working on a device which could
detect radiations from far-away places. He assumed that lightening
sends Maxwell's electromagnetic waves. In 1884, he indeed constructed
a machine which could detect the lightening, and presented his machine
to the high priests of the Russian Physical and Chemical Society.
This is Popov's machine.
In 1989, the Soviet Union produced postal stamps commemorating this occasion.
- Popov published the design of his machine in 1896. In 1900, Russians
started using this new technology for communication between ships and
land-based commanding posts.
Popov and his team continued working on wireless naval communication system. In 1905, Russia had a war with Japan, and Russian naval stratigists thought their naval communication system was the ultimate weapon, like nuclear bombs these days. They decided to send to Japanese coasts their Baltic fleet consisting of eight heavy battle ships. When they reached the Suez Canal, British authorities refused to let them go through. They did not like Russians interfering with their domination of the oceans.
Admiral Togo Heihachiro.
His Japanese navy sank all the battleships of Russian Baltic Fleet in the naval battle of Tsusima in 1905. Tsusima is an island south-east (toward Japan) of the Korean peninsula.
- As a consequence, those ships had to go back to Gibraltar and go to
the southern tip of Africa, and then through the Indian Ocean,
Malayan strait. Their destination was the Russian port of Vladivostok.
They had to go through the strait between Japan and Korea. Unfortunately,
they did not make it. Their ships and weapons systems were OK, but you
can imagine how tired and exhausted those navy people were after the
torturous navigation. They were totally ineffective when they faced
Japanese gun fires.
Russians do not want to talk about or hear about this tragedy, and young Russians do not know about it. Andrei Sakharov's grandfather was on one of those ill-fated ships. His widow used to complain bitterly about the government decision to send the ships to Japan.
- Alexander Popov died on December 31 of 1905. It is known that he was
quite upset about his government's brutal suppression of students
demading reforms. As a navy officer, he should have known how Russian
soldiers and sailors were treated by their government. I do not know
whether the 1905 naval disaster directly caused his death, but it
certainly did not help him.
- Yet, it is remarkable that those Russian ships could sail that far.
Needless to say, it was possible because Russians were quite confident
about their wireless communication system.
Russians did not stop here for their electronic science and technology. I do not know the details. Everybody envies Russia's space programs. Without their ability to create new ideas in electronic technology, how could they develop their space industry?
- Do you know who invented the telephone answering machine? It was
invented by a Japanese man who borrowed money from many different
people. Those creditors constantly called him to ask when he was
going to pay back. He did not want to answer those calls. He thus
came with the device known to as the answering machine. Indeed,
Japanese say "Hizuyo was Hazumei no Haha desu" (Necessity is the
mother of invention).
- Popov's invention grew out of the navy's need for communication. Then who is the father of invention? Let us look at the case of Thomas Edison.
- Edison was always interested in communication. Before everybody, he attempted to use Faraday's electromagnetic induction for wireless communication. I talked about his passion for communication in one of my earlier webpages. He made decisive contributions in telephone and telegraph. Yet, he always carried his passion for wireless communcation. Let us go to the final scene of the film "Young Tom Edison." A railroad bridge and the telegraph wires got washed away by a storm flood, and a train is coming from the other side of the river. How could you tell the train to stop? Edison solves this problem accoustically.
- If necessity is the mother of invention, passion is the father of invention. Edison's passion for communication superseded its methods. When he was young, he was interested in helping others. As he became older and after living through the competative world, Edison felt the necessity for helping himself. He then developed a communication system between himself and the rest of the world.
Many people accuse him of advertising himself. This is an understatement. Edison invented the advertisement. Its father is Edison's passion for communication, and its mother is his necessity to help or protect himself. Advertisement is an essential component of the capitalist world. Indeed, the adverisement was Edison's last and perhaps most important invention.
- Popov's invention grew out of the navy's need for communication. Then who is the father of invention? Let us look at the case of Thomas Edison.
- Let us go back to Popov's invention. the Russian navy needed
wireless communication, which served as the mother of his
invention. Then, what is the father of Popov's invention.
Russians seem to have a passion for reach-out from their own territory. Out of this passion, Peter the Great constructed the Russian navy. In Moscow, there is a tall statue of the Peter the Great.
- In 1999, I took to this photo of Peter the Great while in Moscow. Click here for more about Peter the Great.
- In 2005,
I was fortunate enough to have a photo of myself in front of
Peter the Great at the Headquarters of Russia's Baltic Fleet
in Kalingrad. Do you know where Kaliningrad is?
Click here. With me in
this photo was a Russian professor in Kaliningrad.
- In 2008, I met a group of Russian navy sailors in Istanbul. I asked them whether they came from their Black Sea fleet. They said No. They belong to the Baltic fleet, and their ship came from Kaliningrad. I told them I have my Kaliningrad webpage, and promised to put this photo there. I gave them my web address and told them to look at themselves there.
The Russian passion for outward expansion is not restricted to naval means. The Black Sea is a Russian lake, but Russians also had an appetite for the Mediterranean Sea. Toward the end of the 19th century, many rich Russians established their homes in the French Mediterrian city of Nice. There still is a strong Russian community there. Let us look at some photos.
- Russian Cathedral in Nice. I went to Nice twice, but did not have time to visit this church. This photo is linked from Wikimedia Commons.
- Marc Chagall was a creative Russian artist. He lived in the Nice area, and there is a museum dedicated to him.
- Russians in Nice. You can spot Russian-speaking people in Nice. I met this set of mother and daughter in the Nice beach when I was there in 2004. The mother seems to be very happy to have this photo.
- In February of 1945, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin met in the
Ukrainian city of Yalta to talk about how to end the second world
war. During this meeting, Roosevelt asked Stalin to open the eastern
front and attack the Japanese army in Manchuria (northern China).
At that time, Americans were planning to land their troops on
the mainland of Japan, and wanted to tie up those Japanese troops with
Russians in Manchuria. Let us look at a photo of Stalin at that
- Stalin and Roosevelt
met during the Yalta conference without Churchill. Roosevelt
is asking Stalin to come to Manchuria to take care of Japanese
troops. You can read Stalin's face in this photo. He was showing
his appetite for the Pacific Ocean. Roosevelt asked Stalin to meet,
but Stalin agreed on the condition that Churchill would not be there.
Why was Stalin afraid of Churchill? Click here for an interesting story telling Russia's attempt to make the Korean peninsula their Crimea of the Pacific Ocean.
- On June 25, 1950,
Stalin ordered the Soviet-built North Korean
Army to attack the southern half of the Korean peninsula. This
was the beginning of the Korean War (1950-53).
On June 25, 2000, the Washington post published this cartoon to explain what happened in Korea in 1950. I was in Korea during the entire duration of the Korean war, and I can tell that this war was a product of Stalin's passion for expansion to the Pacific Ocean.
- In the 1930s,
Russians developed war machines which would allow their territorial
expansion throughout Asia and Europe. They developed the
legendary T-34 tanks. These tanks were first battle-tested
against Japanese troops in Mongolia in 1939. Even these days,
Russian tanks play an important role in carrying out their
I was quite fond of collecting toys when I was a child. I still like to collect battle tanks in my backyard, but I have a better solution: webpages!
Yuri Gagarin's statue in Moscow
- In addition, the Russian passion for reach-out is amply demonstrated by
their space programs. In 1957, Russians launched the first artificial
satellite around the earth. In 1959, Russians placed an object in the
On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin circled around the earth on a Russian-made space capsule. These days, Russia is playing the leading role in maintaining the space lab. You would agree that these impressive achievements are products of their passion for outward expansion.
- Stalin and Roosevelt met during the Yalta conference without Churchill. Roosevelt is asking Stalin to come to Manchuria to take care of Japanese troops. You can read Stalin's face in this photo. He was showing his appetite for the Pacific Ocean. Roosevelt asked Stalin to meet, but Stalin agreed on the condition that Churchill would not be there.
- While talking about the Russian navy, I should have enough courtesy to
mention some aspects of the navy of the United States, especially
because I live in one of the greatest navy cities. The University
of Maryland is within the metropolitan area of Washington, DC.
This area is filled with naval institutions, including the Department of Defense, Davit Taylor Laboratory of Naval Architecture (ship design), Naval Hospital located next to the National Institute of Health, and the Naval Research Lab set up by Thomas Edison. In the past, there used to be Naval Ordnance Lab, Naval Torpedo Factory, Naval Gun Factory, and everything about the U.S. Navy.
- The Naval Academy was set up in 1845 as
an elite technical college like MIT, and its most famous graduate was
Albert Abraham Michelson, who was the first American physicist to
get a Nobel Prize. Jimmy Carter studied nuclear physics there, and
he also received a Nobel prize. He was once the president of the
United States (1977-1981).
- Joseph Weber was also an Annapolis graduate. He was the skipper of
a small navy ship during the Pearl Harbor bombing in 1941. His ship
was not important enough to be a target of the Japanese attack.
After the war, he joined the University of Maryland, and dedicated
his life to the detection of gravitational waves predicted by
Joe Weber was a hard-working physicist, and I think I worked as hard as he did. Very often, Weber and I were the only ones in the physics building during the nights and weekends. We praised each other for working hard. In my case, I praised him in order to praise myself. I assume he did the same thing. I am very happy to show you my photo with him taken in 1988. He left us in 2000, and I thoroughly miss him.
- NATO Admirals
I met in Gdansk (Poland 2010). I met them at a seafood restaurant called
They were NATO admirals from Britain, Italy, Poland, France, and the United
States. The lady on my right is an Annapolis graduate, and was a rear
admiral of the U.S. Navy. She was from the United States, and was
naturally the boss of this NATO group, even though she was the
lowest-ranking admiral among this group. She became very
happy when I mentioned Michelson, the first American Nobel laureate in
physics. Michelson studied at the
U.S. Naval Academy.
I became very happy when I read a story about her in the Washington Post. She became a four-star admiral on July 1, 2014. Her name is Michelle Howard, and here is a Wikipedia page about her.
- The Naval Academy was set up in 1845 as an elite technical college like MIT, and its most famous graduate was Albert Abraham Michelson, who was the first American physicist to get a Nobel Prize. Jimmy Carter studied nuclear physics there, and he also received a Nobel prize. He was once the president of the United States (1977-1981).
- The campus of the Academy is located at the corner of the Annapolis
Bay (south) and the Severn River (east). Let us look at some photos.
- View from the high-rise Naval Academy bridge on the Severn River. One of those modern buildings is the Michelson Hall, named after Albert Abraham Michelson.
- Close-up View of the Michelson Hall. This modern building did not exist when Michelson was a student and an instructor there.
- Between two Buildings. Michelson carried out his experiments at the space between Michelson Hall (left) and Chauvenet Hall (right). A saliboat on the Severn River is seen. William Chauvenet was a mathematics professor and one of the founding professors of the Naval Academy.
- Michelson Site seen from the
Severn River (old photo).
- Copper Plate telling that Michelson measured the speed of light at the place front of the Michelson Hall.
- Dots tracing the Light Beam from the copper plate.
- The dotts seen from the opposite direction (photo from Wikimedia). The copper plate is seen.
- When did I become interested in the Russian invention of radio? In 1995,
in order to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Marconi's invention of
wireless communication, I wrote an article about it, and circulated among
my friends. After reading my article, Victor Kim from Saint Petersburg
sent me an e-mail telling me that the radio was first invented by
a Russian naval officer named Alexander Popov.
In this photo, I am with
him and Derek Boyd from the University of Maryland. We were in
Moscow to attend the first Sakharov Conference.
Victor told me Popov invented the device in order to establish a communication system among the naval ships. I was fully prepared to understand and appreciate what he told me. How?
My father was the chief of the supply office of the Korean navy in its infancy (1946-52). The Korean navy started with ten wooden-hulled mine sweepers about to be junked by the U.S. navy and a number of patrol boats abandoned by the Japanese navy. My father was in charge of feeding and clothing those navy sailors and officers. In addition, he had to equip those ships with Morse-coded communication devices.
During the Korean war, he had many friends among American navy officers. He visited frequently the American hospital ship named Repose, and had an access to its PX. He bought a short-wave radio for me. I talked about this story in my earlier webpage.
If my father thought Edison invented the radio, he was not alone. During World War I, American admirals thought Edison invented wireless communication, and thus invited him to organize the Naval Research Laboratory. See my earlier webpage on Edison.
Edison never claimed he invented the radio. One cannot rise that high by being dishonest. We can then see how powerful Edison's advertisement was, which was the product of his passion for communication.
Y. S. Kim (May 2, 2009)
PS. In addition to Russian physics and inventions, I am interested many other aspects of Russian culture. I attended last week a meeting of my high school classmates in New York, and showed them my wegpage http://ysfine.com/style/slavianki.html. They all became excited to hear the music coming from this page. You may click here for your own entertainment.
- Gugliemo Marconi is known widely known as the person who first succeeded in sending and receiving wireless signals. I still think he was, but it is clear that Popov and Marconi developed their devices independently, and Russians deserve to celebrate their Radio Day on the 7th day of May every year.
copyright@2014 by Y. S. Kim, unless otherwise specified. The photos of Popov and his device are from the Wikimedia public domain. The photo of Thomas Edison is also from the public domain. I do not know from where I got the photo of Stalin and Roosevelt, but it is old enough to be in the public domain. The photo of the USS Repose was taken by John Rich during the Korean war (1950-53).