MOUNTAIN MEMORIES: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, unsung genius, challenged the world

Opinion May 08, 2017 by Robert Williamson Hamilton Mountain News

There are several Mountain neighbourhoods bearing the names of citizens who became well-known Canadians: Crerar (army general) Southam (publisher), Buchanan (railways), Balfour (architect), Sackville Hill (builder) and Inch (dairyman/reeve).

Perhaps the most significant name on this list should be Fessenden, but few people would recognize its importance.

Centred on Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School, the neighbourhood is bounded by Mohawk Road West, Upper Paradise, the Lincoln Alexander Parkway and Upper Horning.

The source of the Fessenden name is the Reverend Elisha Joseph Fessenden, minister of St. John’s Anglican Church in Ancaster, and his acclaimed wife, Clementina Trenholme Fessenden. She became famous in Hamilton and British Empire history for leading a Loyalist movement to declare Empire Day a national holiday (Victoria Day). In 1900, she founded a branch of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) in Hamilton and became the curator of Dundurn Castle, the first woman in Canada to hold such a position.

However, it was Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, their son, who added greatly to the distinction of the family name. Despite the fact that his inventive genius changed the world, he remains relatively unknown to Canadians because with the advent of the electronic age, he moved to the United States in 1886, seeking employment with Thomas Edison, the reigning monarch of American science and progressive companies like Westinghouse.

Born on the eve of Canadian Confederation, he spent his youth in southern Quebec. Inspired by the works of Alexander Graham Bell, Reginald applied his inventive genius, inherited from his maternal grandfather, to concepts that must have appeared like science fiction to his generation. Converting intelligible speech to electromagnetic waves that could be transmitted hundreds of miles without wires through the atmosphere and received by a listening device was beyond the imagination of almost everyone.

Teaching grants from Purdue and Pittsburgh Universities and U.S. government contracts provided the financial resources that he needed in a very competitive world of sound and electrical research. On Dec. 23, 1900, he was the first person to transmit the human voice without using wires — radio.

After the Titanic sank in 1912, he invented an oscillator to produce sound waves under water. This device, called sonar, proved very successful in wartime against German submarines. In 1919, he proved that 4,000 electromagnetic waves a minute could not only transmit voice but pictures as well — the primitive groundwork for modern television.

Reginald Fessenden, the unsung Canadian genius, died at age 65 in 1932. He is buried in St. Mark’s Church Cemetery in Hamilton, Bermuda, his wife’s family home.

Fessenden’s epitaph reads: “By his genius, distant lands converse and men sail unafraid upon the deep.”

The woman who gave him life as well as the family name to a Hamilton Mountain neighbourhood lies next to her husband in St. John’s Churchyard Cemetery in Ancaster, not far from Fessenden Elementary School.

Mountain Memories, written by historian Robert Williamson for the Hamilton Mountain Heritage Society, appears monthly. The society’s next meeting is May 18, 7:30 p.m., at  Olivet Church, 40 Empress Ave., where Mark Raymond will present “History of the Westmount Neighbourhood and Terryberry Family.” See the society’s website (hamiltonheritage.ca) for information on events and publications.

MOUNTAIN MEMORIES: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, unsung genius, challenged the world

Neighbourhood named after Hamilton Mountain family

Opinion May 08, 2017 by Robert Williamson Hamilton Mountain News

There are several Mountain neighbourhoods bearing the names of citizens who became well-known Canadians: Crerar (army general) Southam (publisher), Buchanan (railways), Balfour (architect), Sackville Hill (builder) and Inch (dairyman/reeve).

Perhaps the most significant name on this list should be Fessenden, but few people would recognize its importance.

Centred on Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School, the neighbourhood is bounded by Mohawk Road West, Upper Paradise, the Lincoln Alexander Parkway and Upper Horning.

The source of the Fessenden name is the Reverend Elisha Joseph Fessenden, minister of St. John’s Anglican Church in Ancaster, and his acclaimed wife, Clementina Trenholme Fessenden. She became famous in Hamilton and British Empire history for leading a Loyalist movement to declare Empire Day a national holiday (Victoria Day). In 1900, she founded a branch of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) in Hamilton and became the curator of Dundurn Castle, the first woman in Canada to hold such a position.

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However, it was Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, their son, who added greatly to the distinction of the family name. Despite the fact that his inventive genius changed the world, he remains relatively unknown to Canadians because with the advent of the electronic age, he moved to the United States in 1886, seeking employment with Thomas Edison, the reigning monarch of American science and progressive companies like Westinghouse.

Born on the eve of Canadian Confederation, he spent his youth in southern Quebec. Inspired by the works of Alexander Graham Bell, Reginald applied his inventive genius, inherited from his maternal grandfather, to concepts that must have appeared like science fiction to his generation. Converting intelligible speech to electromagnetic waves that could be transmitted hundreds of miles without wires through the atmosphere and received by a listening device was beyond the imagination of almost everyone.

Teaching grants from Purdue and Pittsburgh Universities and U.S. government contracts provided the financial resources that he needed in a very competitive world of sound and electrical research. On Dec. 23, 1900, he was the first person to transmit the human voice without using wires — radio.

After the Titanic sank in 1912, he invented an oscillator to produce sound waves under water. This device, called sonar, proved very successful in wartime against German submarines. In 1919, he proved that 4,000 electromagnetic waves a minute could not only transmit voice but pictures as well — the primitive groundwork for modern television.

Reginald Fessenden, the unsung Canadian genius, died at age 65 in 1932. He is buried in St. Mark’s Church Cemetery in Hamilton, Bermuda, his wife’s family home.

Fessenden’s epitaph reads: “By his genius, distant lands converse and men sail unafraid upon the deep.”

The woman who gave him life as well as the family name to a Hamilton Mountain neighbourhood lies next to her husband in St. John’s Churchyard Cemetery in Ancaster, not far from Fessenden Elementary School.

Mountain Memories, written by historian Robert Williamson for the Hamilton Mountain Heritage Society, appears monthly. The society’s next meeting is May 18, 7:30 p.m., at  Olivet Church, 40 Empress Ave., where Mark Raymond will present “History of the Westmount Neighbourhood and Terryberry Family.” See the society’s website (hamiltonheritage.ca) for information on events and publications.

MOUNTAIN MEMORIES: Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, unsung genius, challenged the world

Neighbourhood named after Hamilton Mountain family

Opinion May 08, 2017 by Robert Williamson Hamilton Mountain News

There are several Mountain neighbourhoods bearing the names of citizens who became well-known Canadians: Crerar (army general) Southam (publisher), Buchanan (railways), Balfour (architect), Sackville Hill (builder) and Inch (dairyman/reeve).

Perhaps the most significant name on this list should be Fessenden, but few people would recognize its importance.

Centred on Sir Allan MacNab Secondary School, the neighbourhood is bounded by Mohawk Road West, Upper Paradise, the Lincoln Alexander Parkway and Upper Horning.

The source of the Fessenden name is the Reverend Elisha Joseph Fessenden, minister of St. John’s Anglican Church in Ancaster, and his acclaimed wife, Clementina Trenholme Fessenden. She became famous in Hamilton and British Empire history for leading a Loyalist movement to declare Empire Day a national holiday (Victoria Day). In 1900, she founded a branch of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) in Hamilton and became the curator of Dundurn Castle, the first woman in Canada to hold such a position.

Related Content

However, it was Reginald Aubrey Fessenden, their son, who added greatly to the distinction of the family name. Despite the fact that his inventive genius changed the world, he remains relatively unknown to Canadians because with the advent of the electronic age, he moved to the United States in 1886, seeking employment with Thomas Edison, the reigning monarch of American science and progressive companies like Westinghouse.

Born on the eve of Canadian Confederation, he spent his youth in southern Quebec. Inspired by the works of Alexander Graham Bell, Reginald applied his inventive genius, inherited from his maternal grandfather, to concepts that must have appeared like science fiction to his generation. Converting intelligible speech to electromagnetic waves that could be transmitted hundreds of miles without wires through the atmosphere and received by a listening device was beyond the imagination of almost everyone.

Teaching grants from Purdue and Pittsburgh Universities and U.S. government contracts provided the financial resources that he needed in a very competitive world of sound and electrical research. On Dec. 23, 1900, he was the first person to transmit the human voice without using wires — radio.

After the Titanic sank in 1912, he invented an oscillator to produce sound waves under water. This device, called sonar, proved very successful in wartime against German submarines. In 1919, he proved that 4,000 electromagnetic waves a minute could not only transmit voice but pictures as well — the primitive groundwork for modern television.

Reginald Fessenden, the unsung Canadian genius, died at age 65 in 1932. He is buried in St. Mark’s Church Cemetery in Hamilton, Bermuda, his wife’s family home.

Fessenden’s epitaph reads: “By his genius, distant lands converse and men sail unafraid upon the deep.”

The woman who gave him life as well as the family name to a Hamilton Mountain neighbourhood lies next to her husband in St. John’s Churchyard Cemetery in Ancaster, not far from Fessenden Elementary School.

Mountain Memories, written by historian Robert Williamson for the Hamilton Mountain Heritage Society, appears monthly. The society’s next meeting is May 18, 7:30 p.m., at  Olivet Church, 40 Empress Ave., where Mark Raymond will present “History of the Westmount Neighbourhood and Terryberry Family.” See the society’s website (hamiltonheritage.ca) for information on events and publications.