THIS June will mark exactly 100 years since the world’s first public broadcast took place - and it took place right here in Essex, in Chelmsford to be precise.

It was June 15, 1920, when Australian opera star Dame Nellie Melba sung down a microphone at the Marconi works in New Street.

She belted out two arias in her famous trill. By the time of her second broadcast a few days later, the great diva’s warbles were being listened to across Britain, and as far away as New York.

Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi was used to being a leader in his field.

In December 1901 he had succeeded in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message – simply the Morse-code signal for the letter “s” –travelled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada.

Today Chelmsford is still celebrated as the birthplace of radio – and we have the great man to thank for that.

The key role of Essex in the birth of broadcasting was entirely down to the Marconi company, where technology was produced that would give Britain the edge over the rest of the world.

Radio science was still in its infancy in 1914, but it developed almost exponentially between 1914 and 1918, thanks to the pressures of war.

The man forever associated with the birth of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, was the son of an aristocratic Italian father and a Scottish mother. From an early age, he displayed dual skills – as a practical inventor, and a natural entrepreneur.

He channelled the experiments and theories of other scientists to make radio systems that – unlike those of his rivals – actually worked in the field.

In 1890, the British Post Office started to fund Marconi’s experiments, resulting in a collaboration that was to prove fruitful for both sides.

The Marconi company would end up being one of the few beneficiaries of the Titanic disaster.

Without the contribution of radio, all aboard would have perished, and the fate of the ship would have remained a mystery.

In 1899, Marconi also pioneered the idea of consumer electronics, founding the world’s first radio factory. The site chosen lay in the Essex town that had become Marconi’s base, Chelmsford.

There he built up an unrivalled research and development team. At the outbreak of war, all Marconi’ efforts were diverted to the war effort.

German technology was, in many fields, superior to that of the Allies.When it came to radio, however, Britain led the way, thanks to Marconi.

Marconi technology proved particularly crucial when it came to the largest and most critical naval engagement of the war, the Battle of Jutland. The vast battle fleet of the German Imperial Navy had the potential to wreak havoc on British maritime lifelines. But the Royal Navy patrolled the mouth of the Skagerrak strait, bottling the Germans into the Baltic.

On May 30 1916, the German fleet attempted a break-out. However, thanks to radio intercepts, the British admiral, Lord Jellicoe, had advance warning of the move, giving him time to order his ships to battle stations.

Following the cessation of hostilities, Marconi and his boys found a new use for the radio technology they had developed for military use. They switched it to a vast new peacetime enterprise - the enterprise of the airwaves.

After more than 100 years in Chelmsford, the Marconi Corporation finally closed down in 2006. The legacy it left, however, and impact it had on the creation of Chelmsford as a thriving town and later a city, cannot be overestimated.

Marconi himself died in Rome on July 20, 1937 at the age of 63, following his ninth heart attack.

Italy held a state funeral for him. As a tribute, shops on the street where he lived were closed for national mourning. In addition, at 6 pm the next day, the time designated for the funeral, all BBC transmitters and wireless Post Office transmitters in the British Isles observed two minutes of silence in his honour.

Today there are countless university buildings, streets, squares and even an airport named in his honour across the earth – and even out of it. The asteroid 1332 Marconia is named in his honour, while a large crater on the far side of the moon is also named after him.

l ESSEX 2020 – a year of science and creativity – is the biggest event of its kind to ever be held in the county.

The year-long programme will bring together inspiring STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – events for all ages and across all corners of Essex to celebrate our county’s pioneering past and present day innovators.

A highlight will see Essex hosting the prestigious British Science Festival. The historic event will be held here for the first time in its almost 200 year history. It will take place from Tuesday, September 8, to Saturday, September 12, and will feature a variety of talks, debates, performances and activities on the Chelmsford campus of Anglia Ruskin University and surrounding area.