Real-Life Legend


Reverend Joseph Murgaš, Wireless Communicator


Father Murgaš’ discovery paved the way for Morse code.

A priest from the Wilkes-Barre area made a very significant contribution to communications in the early days of radio.  

While working in the basement of his church rectory, the Rev. Joseph Murgaš, founding pastor of Sacred Heart Slovak Church, Wilkes-Barre, developed a better way of sending messages by wireless communications.

Murgaš’ discovery paved the way for Morse code by improving on Gugliemo Marconi’s transmission process. Marconi’s process could only send a single sound and carry that sound only a short distance over water. Murgaš’ invention, however, compounded on Marconi’s thinking, and was able to transmit two or more sounds over distances of 70 miles over land and 700 miles over water. The variation of sounds developed by Murgaš made communication by Morse code possible.

Murgaš’ invention was successfully tested on Nov 23, 1905, when Fred Kirkendall, then mayor of Wilkes-Barre, transmitted a message to Mayor Alexander R. Connell of Scranton.

The company that was formed to further test and develop Murgaš’ discovery failed after the death of one of his business partners and the destruction of his equipment during a storm. Marconi later used Murgaš’ ideas and was credited with the invention. In 1916, however, the United States District court recognized Murgaš as the inventor of practical wireless communication.

The photo of Murgaš’ communications tower, which was located near his church on top of Bowman Hill, was published in Edward F. Hanlon; “The Wyoming Valley: An American Portrait,” 1983, courtesy of F. Charles Petrillo.


The above article appeared in The Citizens’ voice, a newspaper in Wilkes-Barre. A greater awareness of Father Joseph Murgaš, his biography and achievements has been accomplished by the Slovak Heritage Society of NEPA's video, REVEREND JOSEPH MURGAš, RADIO’S FORGOTTEN GENIUS. This video is available for purchase from the society.