Inventor. He is remembered for his many achievements, including being a painter, botanist, architect, and a patriot of his native Slovakia, yet he is most remembered for his inventions that improved the telegraph. Born in the Austrian Empire, as a student, he studied art, theology, and electrotechnology. He studied at the Electrical College of Vienna. After graduation in 1888, he was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. He continued to study painting in Germany and Hungary, but after a while, he was limited in his travels for political reasons as he was known as a Slovakian patriot. He firmly supported an autonomous country of Slovakia. He painted landscapes and portraits of prominent citizens. Starting in 1894, he was a priest in the village of Lopej. While there he painted on the church alter a large sacral picture of "St George," which is still present in the 21st century. Located in the 14th century Church of St Elizabeth on the main square of the city of Banská Bystrica is another Murgaš alter painting, "St. Elizabeth." In 1896 he immigrated to the United States and was given a parish at the Sacred Heart Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This move ended his career as a painter, but started one working with electricity. With funding from local businessman, he built a laboratory in the church's basement and a tower for transmission behind the church. In 1904, he invented the "Musical Tone System" of wireless telegraphy, which enabled faster transmission of Morse Code. His much more practical and improved invention was able to transmit two or more sounds 70 miles over land and 700 miles over water, whereas the 1909 Nobel Prize recipient Guglielmo Marconi's earlier invention could only transmit a single sound a short distance over water. On November 23, 1905, he made radio transmission between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Pennsylvania, a distance of 20 miles, generating 50 WPM while Marconi's system could only generate 15 WPM. He published a 1900 magazine article in the "Tovarysstvo," documenting that his radiotelegraphy studies had achieved a high level. Between 1904 and 1916, he was issued seventeen United States patents on his inventions. In 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt visit his laboratory, and he was hired by the United States Navy to improve wireless telegraphy. A storm destroyed some of his transmission towers, he lost his funding, and at the dawn of World War I, private wireless telegram stations were banned, thus his research was finished. In 1916 the United States District court recognized Murgaš as the inventor of practical wireless communication. His research had been monitored by American inventor Thomas Edison. At Edison's advice, Marconi visited Murgaš in 1917. He gave his patents and all the research documentation to Marconi as Murgas lacked funding and did not want his patents "to be lost to the human race. I have no interest in the business side of my scientific research. Whatever else happens, let it be the will of God." Beside his church congregation, he turned his interest to poetry writing, fishing, and collecting 9,000 butterflies. Among his many inventions was the spinning reel for the fishing rod. There is a historical marker at Sacred Heart Church in Wilkes-Barre honoring his achievements. A plaque is located at the main post office in Bratislava, telling his story. In his homeland of Slavia and in the United States, there are numerous streets, buildings, and other places named in his honor. When United States President Franklin Roosevelt christened in his honor in 1944, the USS Murgaš, a cargo vessel, newspapers remembered him as a staunch patriot for Slovakian independence rather than the radio pioneer that he was.
Bio by: Linda Davis
"Here sleeps with Christ Rev Jozef Murgas born in Tajove Zvolenskej župe in Slovakia February 9, 1864. Ordained a priest in Banskej Bystrici year 1888. Died in Wilkes-Barre PA May 11, 1929."