Thursday, February 20, 2014

Angelo Della Riccia

In radio history some names are more sidelined than others. It took a radio text from 1926 to mention the name Angelo Della Riccia to me. The line was as follows: "Della Riccia in the same year , adopted a closed and open oscillatory transmitter..."  In the moment, of 1926 his contributions may have seemed notable and then faded or maybe in the wake of so much progress, only forgotten as a footnote. The year referred to in the quote is the year Marconi patented his first double circuit receiver—1898. I was left wondering what Della Riccia had done to be held, even briefly, in that pantheon of engineers. That same year he is mentioned again in the October issue of The Electrical Trade:
"The scheme of telegraphy without wires has recently engaged the attention of Dr. Della Riccia, of Leige Belgium...  Dr. Riccia has made improvements on a apparatus already in use, simplifying it and increasing it's power and claims he can confine the oscillations of the transmitter to any special point, to the exclusion of all others. In case of communications between war vessels or forts, the message could be transmitted to one alone."
The same story appears almost verbatim in Scientific American, Western Electrician, and the Engineering and Mining Journal that month. The claim of course is untrue, but his other claims of transmitting to ships 7 miles out to sea was certainly doable at the time. It is possible that in the context of the vague language here that he meant he was broadcasting messages on specific frequencies. In the era without variable tuners that seems also possible.

Dr. Riccia was 31 years old when he was making those boastful claims above. He born in Florence August 26, 1867, but raised in Egypt. He studied mathematics in Turin, Italy and in graduated in 1897. The War Department later assigned him the task of reporting on the wireless telegraphy experiments of Guglielmo Marconi. He returned to his schooling afterward and attended the Institute Montefiore and became an electrical engineer.  He worked on the construction of electrical installations, railway lines, power plants and transformer stations in Italy, Belgium, France and Egypt. He continued to dabble in radio however and even patented battery charging systems, rotary transformers, RF signaling devices, an RF reflector, and other related devices.  He died after a brief illness October 24, 1938 in Brussels.