In his latest book, British journalist Simon Winchester dives into the history of his adopted homeland to explore the men who created the United States of America. Researching inventors, explorers and big thinkers, Winchester looks at what it took to make the country we know today in "The Men Who United the States."
"I think our experience in Europe shows how very difficult it is for a polyglot peoples to be welded into one," Winchester told NPR. "It is, to me, quite remarkable that a nation full of as many peoples and ethnic varieties and languages and religious affiliations can nonetheless call itself united."
During the research for his book, Winchester said he was most moved by Reginald Fessenden, the man who first transmitted human voice over radio signals in 1906.
He told the story in a piece for The Daily Beast:
You really have to imagine this moment. Fessenden has built a huge radio transmitter in a place called Brant Rock, Massachusetts. He's adapted the technology that Marconi developed in 1902 to transmit signals, like Morse Code, to carry human speech for the first time.
Fessenden first sends a message using Morse Code to ships out in the Atlantic, carrying things like bananas for the United Fruit Company. He tells them to tune in just before midnight on Christmas Eve. It happens to be a dark and stormy night; there's a blizzard in the northwest Atlantic just off Cape Cod, the Long Island Sound. The ships get the message and turn on their radios at midnight on Christmas. And they hear this:
This is the first music ever transmitted in the world. Now just think: you're a radio transmitter and you never heard anything like this before. You realize, by this happening, it enabled the national conversation to begin. By this happening, America began talking to herself by radio. It changed everything.
Winchester joins The Daily Circuit to discuss his book and research.