Reginald Fessenden

October 6, 2012 by  

Reginald Fessenden, Reginald Aubrey Fessenden (October 6, 1866 – July 22, 1932), a naturalized American citizen born in Quebec, Canada, was an inventor who performed pioneering experiments in radio, including early-and possibly the first-radio transmissions of voice and music. In his later career he received hundreds of patents for devices in fields such as high-powered transmitting, sonar, and television.

Reginald Aubrey Fessenden was born October 6, 1866, in East-Bolton, Quebec, Canada, the eldest of the Reverend Joseph Elisha Fessenden and Clementina Trenholme Fessenden’s four children. Joseph Fessenden was a priest of the Church of England in Canada, and through the years the family moved to a number of postings within the Province of Ontario. While growing up, Reginald was an accomplished student. In 1877, at the age of eleven, he attended Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario for two years.

At the age of fourteen, Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Quebec granted Fessenden a mathematics mastership. At this time, Bishop’s College School was a feeder school of Bishop’s University and shared the same campus and buildings. In June 1878, the school had an enrollment of only 43 boys. Thus, while Fessenden was only a teenager, he was teaching mathematics to the young children at the school while simultaneously studying with the older students at Bishop’s University.

Total enrollment at the university for the school year 1883-84 was twenty-five students. At the age of eighteen, Fessenden left Bishop’s without having been awarded a degree, even though he had “done substantially all the work necessary.” (This lack of a degree may have hurt Fessenden’s employment opportunities; when McGill University established an electrical engineering department, Fessenden was turned down on an application to be the chairman, in favor of an American.)

The next two years he worked as the principal, and sole teacher, at the Whitney Institute in Bermuda. While there, he became engaged to Helen Trott. They married in September, 1890, and later had a son, Reginald Kennelly Fessenden.

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