The radio man
Robert Jack’s voice on the radio was the first time anyone in New Zealand had heard a local radio programme.
A professor of physics at Otago University, he wanted to unite and educate communities.
Jack was born on November 4, 1877, in Scotland, the son of schoolmaster Hugh Jack and wife Janet. He received a first class education then went on to study in France and Germany, specialising in magnetic fields.
Then after four years at Belfast University, teaching as a lecturer in physics Jack came to New Zealand in 1914 as a professor of physics at Otago. He was to teach there for 33 years.
Open public lectures were common at the time, and Jack took full advantage - speaking on many aspects of physics.
Jack became fascinated by radio. Radio signals were broadcast in New Zealand - but there was no voice or music and Jack developed the technology to allow it.
During a visit to Britain he researched the latest naval radio communications and talked about how the equipment with his brother Hugh - an electrical engineer, returning to New Zealand with high-voltage direct current generators and two Edison valves that would create the core of his radio transmitter.
Overseas a handful of radio stations had begun and Jack and his team had put together a small transmitter.
On May 21, 1921 they were able to transmit voice and music within the laboratory and on November 17, Jack and the team broadcast New Zealand’s first radio programme. The first song ever broadcast was Hello My Dearie.
He continued the radio programme two nights a week - a mix of news, live music and recorded music and it was heard all over New Zealand.
One of his contributors was his wife, Isabella Finlay Manson, who he had married on May 22, 1927 when she was matron of Knox College.
Nearly a year after the first broadcast began regularly and the station - now called Radio Dunedin is still on the air and is the fifth oldest station in the world.
Jack also experimented with television transmission and during the Second World War he did governmental research on infra-red radiation.
He died on May 1, 1957 and is buried at the Anderson’s Bay cemetery.
His historic radio transmitter is at the Otago Settlers Musuem.
Picture from Nacho-Carretero-Molero.
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