Letter: Marconi sale dismays world scholars

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Sir: Christie's statement that its sale of the GEC-Marconi archive on 24 and 25 April has been arranged as part of the company's centenary "celebrations" makes dismal reading.

Guglielmo Marconi's daughter, Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli, is understandably appalled, and scholars across the world await with dismay what they see as the almost inevitable dispersal of a collection of unparalleled importance for the early history of radio communications.

By the very nature of Marconi's innovation, the 5,000 documents and 300 artefacts whose sale is planned are part of an international heritage. But the case for their remaining in England, where Marconi chose to perform his most creative work and where his close collaborator, J A Fleming, developed his thermionic valve, is overwhelming. A way must be found.

Time is short. But GEC-Marconi's public relations director has surely misapprehended what he describes as "the public interest". That interest does not reside in a public auction and the sop of a promised CD-Rom on the life and work of Marconi designed for schools and libraries. It resides squarely in a review of the company's decision and a determined effort by everyone concerned to secure the deposit of the papers and objects in conditions that will ensure their permanent availability to historians and the general public.


Professor of the History of Science