Nov 29, 2014

Philo T. Farnsworth

We use it at least once per day. Some homes have more than one. It became a status symbol in the early 1950s. People have been entertained and informed for generations since. The inventor's first name was used by actor Clint Eastwood in the film, Every Which Way But Loose – by accident or on purpose. It is television.
However, I bet few know who invented the technological marvel that changed the world, for better or worse. His name is Philo T. Farnsworth. Unfortunately, he did not get historical attention until recently. Indeed, encyclopedia, under the entry electronic television, will read:
Vladimir Zworykin invented the Ionoscope for RCA in 1923

Another source, Wikipedia, states:
In 1884, Paul Gottlieb Nipkow, a 23-year-old university student in Germany,[6] patented the first electromechanical TV system which employed a scanning disk, a spinning disk with a series of holes spiraling toward the center, for rasterization. The holes were spaced at equal angular intervals such that, in a single rotation, the disk would allow light to pass through each hole and onto a light-sensitive selenium sensor which produced the electrical pulses. As an image was focused on the rotating disk, each hole captured a horizontal "slice" of the entire image.[7]

But it was Philo T. Farnsworth who made the world's first working television system with electronic scanning of both the pickup and display devices, demonstrated publicly on September 1, 1928.
WRGB claims to be the world's oldest television station, tracing its roots to an experimental station founded on 13 January 1928, broadcasting from the General Electric factory in Schenectady, NY, under the call letters W2XB.[23] It was popularly known as "WGY Television" after its sister radio station. Later in 1928, General Electric started a second facility, this one in New York City, which had the call letters W2XBS and which today is known as WNBC.
In 1931, a German, Manfred von Ardenne, provided the world's first public demonstration of a TV system using a cathode ray tube for both transmission and reception. The world's first TV service began in Berlin, Germany in 1935. In August of 1936, the Olympic Games in Berlin were captured by cable to TV stations in Berlin and Leipzig where the public could view the games live.
Amazingly, the concept of plasma display on a flat-panel screen system was described by Kálmán Tihanyl.
TV became familiar to the general American public via the 1939 World's Fair that featured new creations and futuristic science and technology.
Mexican inventor, Guillermo González Camarena also contributed to the development of early TV.
It has been an error in historical records that Zworykin (1923) is attributed with the first working television before Farnsworth's 1927 patent. But if that were true, Zworykin would not have made the statement during a visit to Farnsworth's lab in 1930 with witnesses who heard him say:
In 1935, decision Interference #64,027, clearly states that the “priority of invention awarded to Farnsworth”.

The concept of video began with Philo T. Farnsworth when he was fourteen years old and first demonstrated the idea of TV in San Francisco in 1927. It was the first demonstration that an electrical image could be transmitted without the use of direct mechanical devices, meaning that video signals could be transmitted like radio waves. The problem with the Zworykin patent (1923) was that it looked good on paper, but did not work; in fact, there is no evidence that any working model was built and tested when drawings were submitted for patent in 1923. RCA still considers the Zworykin television concept as the “inventor of television” - and, why would they not? It was RCA who bought the drawing and had it patented so they could be the first, competing with Westinghouse during that time period.
Philo T. Farnsworth was born in 1906, Graduated Brigham Young High School in 1924. At the age of 14 he envisioned using a lens to direct light into a glass tube, where it could be analyzed and transmitted in a continuous stream.
In 1927, when Philo was 21 years old, he produced the first television transmission by taking a glass slide, smoking it with carbon and scratching a line on it. It was then placed in a carbon arc projector and shined onto the photocathode of the first camera tube. The first camera tube used phosphor that was not sensitive to light. Philo's wife, Pem Farnsworth, stated:
Phil saw television as a marvelous teaching tool. There would be no excuse for illiteracy. Parents could learn along with their children. News and sporting events could be seen as they were happening.
Farnsworth was an inventor at an early age. At age thirteen he won a first prize of $25 for his invention of a theft-proof ignition switch for automobiles. His idea of inventing television and making it work began with articles by science writers, like Hugo Gernsback in Popular Science. Records and testimony reveals that Farnsworth actually invented television at the age of 15 in 1921. In 1924, Farnsworth enrolled at Brigham Young University in 1924. He was a member of the Brigham Young University chamber music orchestra, playing both piano and violin. He also took part in school plays. It was during that period that he met Elma “Pem” Gardner who would become his partner in life as well an encouragement towards his inventive ideas becoming reality.
Later, Farnsworth attended the Naval Academy where he reasoned he could continue his work in electronics and still support his fatherless family. But when a chaplain who had heard of Farnsworth's remarkable ideas, took him aside and asked him:
You don't want the US Government to own your patents, do you?
Realizing that his dream to make money with his ideas, he asked his mother to ask a US senator to formally request that her son be given release from the military, based on the rule that the oldest child in a family without a father, could not be drafted into military service because of the need to support his family. After a few months attending classes at Annapolis, Farnsworth moved back to Provo, Utah and enrolled at BYU for another year.
Working at various jobs in order to stay in school, finances became a problem, which led to leaving school and seeking full-time employment in Salt Lake City.
He got a big break when professional fund-raisers from California were impressed with Farnsworth's abilities, they offered to financially support the venture partnership of Everson, Farnsworth & Correll. Soon after, Philo and Pem were married on May 27, 1926. They went to California and built a lab in several rooms of a second-story rental space in San Francisco at the bottom of Telegraph Hill. It was there that electronic television was created in their lab, not just on paper. Farnsworth was 21 years old.
The next three years, Farnsworth projects was financially supported by bankers and investors and it became part of Crocker Research Laboratories. When they moved to Philadelphia, the enterprise was named Farnsworth Television Inc. or FTL. Later Farnsworth would become the victim of industrial espionage and his central idea/theme concerning television was stolen by RCA after one of their scientists toured the Farnsworth's laboratory for three days. At the time, Farnsworth was not concerned because his patents had already been recorded and witnessed. However, the patent dispute ended up wasting valuable time and energy, fighting against the larger company, RCA. Justin Tolman, Farnsworth's high school science teacher was the main witness that saved his patented idea.
At Farnsworth's death, Scientific American magazine declared him to be one of the ten greatest mathematicians of his time.
Personal Note
As another birthday goes by, I think of what Dr. Indiana Jones stated, conveniently printed on my birthday card I received from my son ...
It's not the years, it's the mileage.
I have been well traveled and experienced adventures that others say they envy, and sometimes I sadly wish that the mileage had to end.

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