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Augusto Righi
Augusto Righi.
1850 - 1920.

Augusto Righi was born in Bologna, Italy on August 27, 1850.
If I discover anything about his early life I will add it.

Educated at Bologna University Augusto started teaching even before he had graduated! He received his degree in engineering aged 22 and went on to teach physics from 1873 to 1880 at the Bologna Technical Institute.

Augusto applied his talents to experimental work in electro-magnetic studies and solid-state physics. He was the first scholar to demonstrate the hysteresis effect of iron and magnetic materials and his contributions to the study of Hall and Kerr effects brought to light some basic aspects that were later explained later by electronic theory. After Heinrich Hertz had announced his discovery of electromagnetic waves, Augusto decided to investigate them, especially their optical properties, and published the results in a treatise, called "Optice Elettrica", in 1897. He noticed a correlation between the size of spheres on the exciters and wavelength, the smaller the spheres, the shorter the waves. Augusto propagated electric waves as short as 2½ centimeters, whereas Hertz had only produced them as short as 30 centimeters in length. Augusto went on to improve the Hertz oscillator that generated the waves by placing the spark gap in vaseline or paraffin oil and made the waves more consistent and steady. The using of the oil had a useful side effect too, the discharge spheres didn't burn and pit as they did in air, so didn't need such frequent attention to keep them clean and smooth!

It is said, by some, that Guglielmo Marconi was a student under Augusto but Augusto himslef stated, in a newspaper interview published in "Il Resto del Carlino" (excerpt pictured below with the statement highlighted) on May 28, 1897:
"Il giovane Marconi non è un mio allievo, e me ne duole anzi non fu mai studente universitario."
for which Google Language Tools returns: "The young Marconi is not my student, and I am sorry indeed was never a university student."
and Babel Fish translater returns as "The Marconi young person is not a my student, and it hurts some to me indeed it was not never student university."
So, even with the not quite English of Babel Fish, I think I can lay that rumour to rest!

Excerpt from the Italian newspaper mentioned in the text

Although Marconi was never enrolled as a student at the University of Bologna, he did hear Augusto lecture. In Marconis' first tests of wireless he used the induction coil as the electric-wave emitter, and the ball discharger or spark gap described by Augusto in his scientific papers. It consisted of four brass balls separated by small gaps and immersed in vaseline oil. To control the electric discharge across the gap a telegraph key was connected in the primary circuit of the induction coil. This, of course, permitted the formation of dots and dashes.

Augusto and Guglielmo Marconi were good friends for a long time and Marconi saught Augustos' advice and expertise on numerous occasions. In fact, during a celebration held on September 21 1902 in Bologna in honour of Marconis' achievements, Guglielmo Marconi said in a speech: "I am especially pleased to see here today Professor Righi. He has done great studies on electric waves and the result from his work was very good for my profound discoveries".

Augusto also designed a new detector for radio waves which was much more sensitive than those before. By cutting thin lines on the back of a mirror, dividing the metallic surface with a diamond point into narrow discontinuous strips, he found that detection improved greatly. The reason was that the thin lines provided a spark-distance much finer than could be attained by a micrometer gap, hence affording the greater sensitivity.

From 1880 to 1885 Augusto taught at the Palermo University, and from 1885 to 1889 at Padua University. He then returned to the University of Bologna.

Augustoi was appointed to the Chair of Physics at the Faculty of Science, University of Bologna, in 1899. He taught in Bologna for a total of 32 years, publishing more than 250 scientific papers on subjects such as; electro-atomic phenomena; the action of magnetism; electrified particles in gases; electric waves; electric oscillations Hertzian waves and telegraphy without wires.

During the last years of his life Augusto began experiments on the conduction of gases under various conditions of pressure and ionisation in magnetic field. From 1918 he concentrated on the Michelson-Morley experiment, criticising it and suggesting modifications. He was fascinated by the theory of relativity, though he believed that the theory lacked convincing experimental support. Augusto was a member of several national scientific associations, such as the prestigious Accademia dei Lincei. He died on June, 8, 1920, in his home city of Bologna.

There have been many tributes to Augusto Righi in his native Italy. He has appeared on postage stamps, had busts and plaques mounted on buildings in honour of him and had seats of learning named after him. There is even the Associazione Radiomatori Italiani Sezione Augusto Righi although their website is "under construction" at the time of writing this (I hope your Italian is better than Babel Fish!) which is an Italian Amateur Radio Club in Bologna.

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