Braun was born in Fulda, Germany, and educated at the University of Marburg and received a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in 1872. In 1874 he discovered that a point-contact semiconductor rectifies alternating current. He became director of the Physical Institute and professor of physics at the University of Strasbourg in 1895. In 1897 he built the first cathode-ray tube oscilloscope. CRT technology is only now, over a century later, gradually being replaced by flat screen technologies (such as LCD, LED and Plasma) on television sets and computer monitors. The CRT is still called the "Braun tube" (Braunsche Röhre) in German-speaking countries (and in Japan: Buraun-kan).

Braun in his laboratory During the development of radio, he also worked on wireless telegraphy. Around 1898, he invented a crystal diode rectifier or Cat's whisker diode. Guglielmo Marconi used Braun's patents (among others). Braun's British patent on tuning was used by Marconi in many of his tuning patents. Marconi would later admit to Braun himself that he had "borrowed" portions of Braun's work. In 1909 Braun shared the Nobel Prize for physics with Marconi for "contributions to the development of wireless telegraphy." Braun went to the United States at the beginning of World War I (before the U.S. had entered the war) to help defend the German wireless station at Sayville, New York, against attacks by the British-controlled Marconi Corporation. Braun died in his house in Brooklyn, New York, before the war ended in 1918.

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