Hugo Gernsback was a Luxembourg–American inventor and publisher who played a major role both in fostering the amateur radio movement and in creating the American science fiction tradition.
Gernsback was born in 1884 in Luxembourg City, to Berta Dürlacher and Moritz Gernsbacher. He emigrated to the United States in 1904.
Gernsback was an entrepreneur in the electronics industry, importing specialized electronic equipment from Europe and helping to supply many of those who wanted to make their own radios and transmitters. In April 1908 he founded Modern Electrics, the world's first magazine about both electronics and radio. In 1913, he founded a similar magazine, The Electrical Experimenter, which became Science and Invention in 1920.
He designed and marketed the Telimco Wireless, the first home radio set and the first walkie-talkie. Gernsback also founded the Wireless Association of America in 1909, a major organization in the amateur radio movement. He was an influential promoter of radio as a participatory medium through his popular science magazines and through books like Radio for All (1922). A technological utopian, Gernsback believed that radio would foster better communications both within the United States and globally, enabling stronger social and cultural communities and a true participatory democracy. In 1925, he founded radio station WRNY, which was broadcast from the 18th floor of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. In 1928, WRNY aired some of the first television broadcasts.
Gernsback reprinted the proto-science fiction and utopian writings of the 19th century, including work by H.G. Welles and Jules Verne, in his popular science magazines. Increasingly, he found his readers eager to enjoy what he called "scientifiction", about technologically advanced future societies. He created a series of magazines, including Amazing Stories, devoted exclusively to this new genre. Gernsback saw science fiction as a means of popular education about science, technology, and change, insisting on scientific accuracy and encouraging the critical reading of scientific details. Amazing Stories provided the training ground for many early science fiction writers and formed the basis for science fiction fandom.
The Hugo Awards or "Hugos", named after Gernsback, are the annual achievement awards presented at the World Science Fiction Convention. Hugos were first given in 1953, at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention, and have been awarded every year since 1955.
In 1954, Gernsback was awarded the Order of the Oak Crown by the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg for his services to science.