Alexander Stepanovich Popov, Russian physicist and electrical engineer, famous for invention of wireless electrical communication, is born in the Turinskiye Rudniki village on 16th of March, 1859 in priest family. He moves to Yekaterinburg when he gets twelve years old, and gets his secondary education in Perm seminary, finishing its general education classes in 1877. His classmates recall him to be very fond of physics and mathematics, preferring spending all his spare time with books in these subjects to running and playing games.
In 1877 Alexander Popov arrives to Saint Petersburg, having strong intentions to enter Saint Petersburg’s university, which he does successfully after passing tests and being admitted to the faculty of physics and mathematics. While studying at the university, future inventor comes across great discoveries in physics and electricity, such as successful experiments of Russian scientist N.A. Lodygin with electric bulb, or so-called “Russian light”, an electric candle, created by P.N. Yablochkov.
Years spent at the university give young scientist a lot, and, first of all, the interest to electrical engineering, which is rapidly developing in Russia in the eighties of the twentieth century. On the fourth year of his studies, Alexander Popov starts assisting professors during lectures and attending meetings of numerous student scientific societies, longing for new knowledge in physics and electrical magnetism.
In 1882 Alexander Popov graduates from the university, however, professors decide to keep talented student for further scientific work, possibly ending with Doctor Thesis defense. Young and stubborn physicist resists alluring offer, explaining his behaviour with insufficient equipment of physical laboratory, and accepts position of a teacher of physics and electric engineering in various military educational institutions of Kronshtadt.
In his first scientific research Alexander Popov analyses optimal operating of dynamo-electric machine (1883) and Hughes’s induction balance (1884), and switches to electromagnetism after Heinrich Hertz publishes his works in electrodynamics in 1888. Popov tries to find the way to make public demonstration of Hertz’s experiments more effective, thus he starts building an illustrative indicator of electromagnetic waves. Popov plans two stages for developing his unit – first is finding high-sensitive indicator of electromagnetic waves and second is building a reliable detector of said waves. As an indicator, Alexander Stepanovich chooses a sensor tube, invented by Frenchman Edouard Branly, which is known as coherer – a small glass tube, full of metal filings, with electrodes on its edges.
Spring of 1895 sees Popov coming out with a safe and sensitive receiver, suitable for wireless communication (radio communication) and presenting his invention during a session of physical department of the Russian Physics and Chemistry Society – since that event May 7 is celebrated as Radio Day. Further experiments show the device reacting on lightning strokes and encourage Popov to build storm indicator, which now is displayed in Central Communication Museum in Saint Petersburg.
In 1899 Popov’s assistants discovered detector effect of coherer, thus allowing Alexander Popov developing “telephone message receiver” for receiving radio signals on head phones and patenting his invention. Since that time Popov’s receivers start their triumphant march around the world.
Foreign companies compete to employ the Russian genius, however, patriot scientist rejects all offers.
Alexander Popov dies on January 13th of 1906.
Russian Fund of History of Communication
Moscow Popov Society of Radio Technology and Communication