Highfields Amateur Radio Club
Innovators Pages.
Gustave Auguste Ferrié
Gustave Auguste Ferrié.
1868 - 1932.

Gustave Auguste Ferrié was born on November 19 1868, in Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, Savoie, France.

His father, Pierre, was an engineer for the French Southern Railway. His mother was Antoinette Joséphine Manecy.

Gustave graduated from the École Polytechnique in Paris in 1891. He then joined the French army as an Engineer and became an officer in the Engineer Corps, specialising in its military telegraph service.

After being made known to a committee that was exploring wireless telegraph communications between France and England, Gustave found the subject on which he would focus his scientific career. In 1899 aged 31, he experimented, with Guglielmo Marconi, wireless telegraphy between France and England.

In 1903 Gustave (then a captain) proposed using the Eiffel Tower (completed just 4 years earlier in 1889) to mount antennas for long-range wireless telegraphy. Under his direction a transmitter was set up in the tower by 1904 and the effective range increased steadily from an initial 400 km (250 miles) to 6,000 km (3,700 miles) by 1908. Gustave then turned his mind to the development of mobile transmitters to enable military units to stay in radio contact with Paris. Also in 1903 Gustave invented an electrolytic detector which operated more reliably than Branlys' coherer but, as with a lot of inventions, others were working on the same device without each others knowledge and the credit for the electrolytic detector invention is often cited as Dr. M. I. Pupin (1899), Professor R. A. Fessenden (1903), W. Schloemilch (1903) or others.

When World War I began, Gustave, by this time a colonel, was named director of French Military Radio Communications and he assembled a corps of scientists and technicians who set up a network of radio direction finders from the English Channel to the Jura Mountains (a small mountain range located north of the Alps). During the war Gustave made extraordinary advances in the field of radio communication. Engineers had long known that telegraph signals could travel a few hundred yards through the ground, but little use had been made of this form of wireless communication. In 1914 Gustave recognised two things: the newly available electron tube could significantly extend the range of this technique; and it might then be of enormous value in the fighting on the Western Front. Thus was born ground telegraphy or Earth-currents signaling. Using a triode amplifier Gustave achieved a range of several kilometers and, by the end of the war, the French had produced almost 10,000 of the devices for use by the Allies. It was also discovered that the Earth-currents signaling receivers could pick up telegraph and telephone signals from lines buried nearby. They were thus used to tap enemy communication lines and also to receive their own telegraph or telephone signals when a line had been cut by shell fire or other means.

Unfortunately Earth-currents signaling scarcely outlived the war. Even before the end of the war it had began to be displaced by another wireless communication technique. This, of course, was radio, the technology to which Gustave devoted most of his efforts. Gustave created a radio section at the École Supérieur d'Électricité, Gif sur Yvette, France and experimented with radio transmissions from aircraft to enable the aerial direction of artillery fire.

1919 saw Gustave being made a General. He continued in the army Engineer Corps until his death, the usual restrictions on upper age limit having been lifted for him by a special law that was enacted in 1930. 1919 was also the year that Gustave received an honorary Doctorate degree from Oxford University.

Gustave was the first president of the French National Committee of Geodesy and Géophysique from 1920 to 1926 and also held the posts of president of the International Scientific Radio Union (U.R.S.I.) and the International Commission on Longitudes by Radio, and was vice president of the International Board of Scientific Unions.

During a stay in hospital at Val de Grâce, Gustave died of of a heart attack on February 16 1932, aged 63. Several hours after his death he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.

Some of the honours, awards and recognition given to Gustave:

Innovators Index. or Sitemap.