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Fascinating facts about Philo T. Farnsworth
inventor of Television in 1927.
Philo Farnsworth
Inventor: Philo Taylor Farnsworth
Criteria: First to invent. First to patent. First practical. Entrepreneur.
Birth: August 19, 1906 in Beaver, Utah
Death: March 11, 1971 in San Francisco, California
Nationality: American

Philo Taylor Farnsworth, American inventor and pioneer in television technology. Farnsworth developed a television system complete with receiver and camera, but he failed to produce his system commercially.

Farnsworth was born in Beaver, Utah. His family moved to Rigby, Idaho, when he was 11 years old, where Farnsworth began experimenting with electricity. In 1920, when Farnsworth was 14, he showed his high school chemistry teacher a design he had made for an electronic television. The next year Farnsworth entered Brigham Young University as a special freshman. Farnsworth soon left school and worked at odd jobs until he met a willing investor who lent him money to start building his television.

The television systems being experimented with at that time consisted of a system of spinning disks with holes punched in them and mirrors designed to convert light to electricity. These disks and mirrors could give only poor resolution. Farnsworth called his device an image dissector because it converted individual elements of the image into electricity one at a time. He replaced the spinning disks with cesium, an element that emits electrons when exposed to light. Farnsworth applied for a patent for his image dissector in 1927. The development of the television system was plagued by lack of money and by challenges to Farnsworth's patent from the giant Radio Corporation of America (RCA). He spent his career as head of the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation, which he founded in 1929.

In 1934, the British communications company British Gaumont bought a license from Farnsworth to make systems based on his designs. In 1939, the American company RCA did the same. Both companies had been developing television systems of their own and recognized Farnsworth as a competitor. World War II (1939-1945) interrupted the development of television. When television broadcasts became a regular occurrence after the war, Farnsworth was not involved. Instead, he devoted his time to trying to perfect the devices he had designed.

Farnsworth also worked as a consultant in electronics and later as a researcher in atomic energy. He conducted research on radar and on nuclear energy. Farnsworth held 165 patents, mostly in radio and television.

TO LEARN MORE

INVENTION:
Invention of Television    from The Great Idea Finder
Communication History   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

Brainstorm!: The Stories of Twenty American Kid Inventors
by Tom Tucker, Richard Loehle / Paperback - 144 pages  / Sunburst (1998)
The stories of twenty ingenious young Americans who have filed patents with the United States Patent Office, including Chester Greenwood who invented ear muffs, Ralph Samuelson, originator of water-skiing, and Vanessa Hess who created colored car wax
Distant Vision: Romance and Discovery on the Invisible Frontier (Limited Availability.)
by Elma G. Farnsworth / Hardcover (August 1990) / Pemberly Kent Pub
Want to know more about Philo T. Farnsworth then read this book by his wife. This is Elma Farnsworth's personal account of the life she shared with one of this century's most inventive scientists. Filled with intimate details, this is the book that Mrs. Farnsworth spent 15 years compiling and writing in order to "set the record straight."

TV's Forgotten Hero: The Story of Philo Farnsworth
by Stephanie Sammartino McPherson / Library Binding (October 1996) / Carolrhoda Books
Interestingly reconstructing the drama of Farnsworth's life, McPherson incorporates anecdotes that personalize the precocious youth and inventive adult. A generous supply of photographs punctuates a very readable biography.
The Last Lone Inventor: A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television
by Evan I. Schwartz / Paperback - 352 /
Perennial; (May 13, 2003)
Vividly written and based on original research, including interviews with surviving Farnsworth family members, The Last Lone Inventor tells the story of the struggle between two utterly mismatched but equally determined adversaries, one a genius inventor and the other, a diabolically clever businessman, and how this fight symbolized a turning point in the culture of innovation.
Philo T. Farnsworth: The Father of Television
by Donald G. Godfrey, Christopher H. Sterling / Hardcover - 307 pages (August 2001) / Univ of Utah Pr

The only competition he faced was RCA and RCA tried to stop him. What followed were years of intense work and bitter frustrations. But in the end, Fransworth was proven to be the creator of television. Although forgotten today, this biography brings back to the public the importance of Philo T. Farnsworth and how the technology he developed back in the 1920s is till used today.
The Boy Genius and the Mogul: The Untold Story of Television
by Daniel Stashower / Hardcover: 288 pages / Broadway Books; ISBN: 0767907590; (April 9, 2002)
The book jacket asserts that it will tell the story of television's "real" inventor, Philo T. Farnsworth, a 14-year-old Idaho farm boy.


ON THE SCREEN:
Television - Window to the World
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / History Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
Chronicles the incredible story of television, from the vision of Philo Farnsworth, a Utah farm boy who developed the first working system in 1925, to the technological breakthroughs that are transforming the medium as we head into the 21st century.

ON THE WEB:
Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Featured Farnsworth for his invention of the Electronic Television.
(URL: web.mit.edu/invent/iow/farnsworth.html)
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds. Philo Farnsworth was inducted in 1984 for his Television System,  Patent Number 1,773,980.
(URL: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/56.html)
The Farnsworth Chronicles
A true and compelling story of the forgotten genius who invented electronic video.
(URL: www.farnovision.com)
Encarta Encyclopedia
The online version is your gateway to 16,000 abriged references, articles and world atlas.
(URL: encarta.msn.com/)
TV Museum
Historian Leonard J. Arrington credits Farnsworth with 150 U.S. patents and "more than 100 foreign patents on various foreign inventions."
(URL: www.museum.tv/archives/etv/F/htmlF/farnsworthp/farnsworthp.htm )
Farnsworth Archives
A listing of the patents issued to Philo Farnsworth at this site dedicated to his memory.
URL: www.philotfarnsworth.com/patents.html)
Electrical Engineer - Philo Farnsworth
The key to the television picture tube came to him at 14, when he was still a farm boy, and he had a working device at 21.From Time Magazine: 100 Greatest Scientists & Thinkers Lots of COOKIES.
(URL: www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/farnsworth.html)


DID YOU KNOW:

  • Farnsworth held 165 patents, mostly in radio and television.
  • Farnsworth invented the Isolette, an enclosed, sterile crib for isolating premature babies too frail to survive in a normal environment.
  • He developed a radar system used by the military.
  • He perfected an Iatron, which assisted air traffic controllers in monitoring aircraft.
  • He spent his later years researching the peaceful uses of nuclear fusion.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised October 9, 2006.
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