Like John R Mott, the Italian inventor of wireless telegraphy and 1909 Nobel Prize winner for physics, Guglielmo Marconi was offered free passage on Titanic. The inventor and his family had been holidaying in England near Southampton and were invited to be guests of The White Star Company on the ship’s maiden voyage. Marconi initially accepted. However, his plans were upset. Marconi found that he had to get back to New York early. He also had work to do en route and needed a ship with a public stenographer. So he switched to the Lusitania, which departed three days before Titanic was due to sail.
However, the plan was, his wife Beatrice and their two children would indeed follow on Titanic. Again, however, fate intervened. Marconi’s son, Guilio fell ill with a sudden fever, and so Mrs. Marconi decided to delay their departure until the little boy recovered. She and her daughter Degna apparently watched the Titanic depart Southampton, waving to passengers before returning sadly to their holiday home, not yet aware of how lucky they were.
Mr. Marconi meanwhile heard the news of the disaster just after his arrival in New York. It was initially reported the ship and passengers had been saved and towed to Halifax. It was not until 7 PM the day after the disaster that its true scope was revealed publicly when the Carpathia finally docked in New York.
Marconi’s wireless operators were accused of withholding the full information of the disaster so they could sell the information to the papers, leading to Marconi’s interrogation by a Senatorial inquiry. However, both the operators and the inventor swiftly turned from villains to heroes when it became known that in fact Marconi’s wireless telegraphy and the brave actions of his operators onboard Titanic had in fact saved more than 700 lives.
The Marconi family were not the only passengers to be initially disappointed not to travel on the Titanic.