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Earth Sound Earth SignalEnergies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts$
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Douglas Kahn

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780520257801

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520257801.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Natural Radio, Natural Theology

(p.25) 1 Thomas Watson
Earth Sound Earth Signal

Douglas Kahn

University of California Press

Thomas Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant, heard the sounds of natural radio when the first telephone test line acted as an unwitting antenna. He was most probably the first person on earth to hear radio, that is, as a natural phenomenon rather than a technological device. His speculations that the sounds were of extraterrestrial origin or produced by storms on the sun were keeping with other notions of the time. That Watson heard natural radio in telephone lines is supported by other examples in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The aesthetics of his extended periods of listening is related to his later spiritualist writings.

Keywords:   Thomas Watson, natural radio, radio history, radio noise, telephone history, telephone noise, media archaeology, natural theology, outer space sounds, whistlers, solar storms

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