On May 7 (under the Gregorian calendar), 1895, Alexander Stepanovich Popov, a professor of physics at the Maritime School in Kronstadt, spoke at a meeting of the Russian Physical and Chemical Society. To the respectable audience he delivered a lecture titled On the Relation of Metal Powders to Electric Oscillations. In the language of laymen, it was a demonstration of an instrument for receiving electromagnetic waves from the atmosphere. The inventor called his device a lightning detector, noted its utility for the recording of atmospheric waves and shared his hope that “the device can be applied to the transmission of signals at a distance by means of rapid electric oscillations as soon as a source for such oscillations can be found.”
If only Tsarist officials knew how fiercely the Russian priority for invention will be contested later! But at the time, no one realized the value of Popov’s invention, and he was refused financial assistance. Nor did Popov win the Nobel Prize for his invention of radio. But at least there was an excuse: the prize is only awarded to living people, and by 1909, when it was received by Guglielmo Marconi and Karl Ferdinand Brown, Alexander Popov had already died. But the memory of him remains alive – the day of the lightning detector presentation is celebrated in Russia as the Radio Day.