Catching Waves

German physicist Heinrich Hertz, a pioneer of radio communication, was born on 22 February 1857. Hertz demonstrated for the first time that electric waves are essentially the same as light waves: In his experiments, both traveled in straight lines at the same speed and could be reflected, refracted, and polarized. Hertz also designed equipment that could detect electric waves 20 meters away. His inventions set the stage for the development of wireless telegraph and radio communication, which spanned the Atlantic by 1901. The unit of frequency called the hertz, or one cycle per second, is named in his honor.