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Philo T. Farnsworth, The Father of Television
September 7

By Sarah Lane
Aug 15, 2006, 08:54 PST

Philo T. Farnsworth 
'The Father of Television'

Seventy-five years ago on September 7th, 1927, the first successful demonstration of television occurred.  A mostly self-taught genius named Philo T. Farnsworth transmitted an image of a horizontal line to a receiver in the next room.  Farnsworth was born on August 19th, 1906, at Indian Creek in Beaver County, Utah.  At age six he told his Dad that he'd been born an inventor.  An amazing young boy, he built an electric motor at age 12 and won his first national contest at age 13.  In the contest sponsored by Science and Invention Magazine, Farnsworth created a thief proof lock.  He didn't stop there. 

During the summer of 1921, Farnsworth was leading a horsedrawn plowing machine when he stopped to look over his work.  He suddenly realized that just as he was plowing the field into parallel rows, he could scan an image row by row.  He figured that by doing this one line at a time, with a beam of electrons inside a cathode ray tube, he might successfully transmit an image to a receiver.   He went on to demonstrate the first operational, all electronic television system in 1927. 

With an extension on his funding, it was May 1928 when Farnsworth transmitted a two-dimensional image of his wife and assistant Pem, to a receiver for viewing by an audience.  Using a sketch kept by his high school chemistry teacher, Justin Tolman, he went on to win a legal suit against RCA.  They claimed, to no avail, that their man, Vladimir Zworykin, had documented this concept first. 

The monumental contribution made by Philo T. Farnsworth was not recognized before he died of emphysema on March 11, 1971, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  It's up to us to remind our kids why they have the advantage of seeing the Nile River, Pyramids of Egypt, and similar wonders of the world from the safety of their homes.

Source:  State of Utah, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Tanglewood Adventures, A & E Television, Inc.


Additional Learning Links for the Father of Television

The Architect of the Capitol
A bronze statue of Philo T. Farnsworth was donated in 1990 beating out the guy who invented the drive-thru restaurant.  Find out how and why.
Source:  National Statuary Hall Collection

Utah History To Go
Elementary school students struggled and eventually succeeded in aiding the quest to have a statue of Farnsworth at Statuary Hall in Washington.  Find out how and why they did it.
Source:  State of Utah

How Television Works
From the brain to digital, is all here complete with pictures and demonstrations... the miracle of television!  Read this article to discover how it works.
Source:  HowStuffWorks, Inc.

The Philo T Farnsworth Archives
Learn about Philo T Farnsworth and the patents he held.
Source:  The Philo T Farnsworth Archives via the Wayback Machine

This site has an introduction to Philo T. Farnsworth and the Farnsworth chronicles.  Find out who invented what... and when.  Stop by the video library, link list, supplements, and news page for more.

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