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David Sarnoff

Business Personality / TV Personality

Born: 27 February 1891
Died: 12 December 1971
Birthplace: Uzlian, Russia(Belarus)
Best known as: Radio and TV Pioneer and head of RCA

David Sarnoff climbed up the corporate ladder of the early communications industry to head the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), a pioneer in the world of radio and television broadcasting. Sarnoff, who came to New York City from Russia in 1900 at the age of 9, began working for the American branch of the Marconi Wireless Company when he was a teenager. Ambitious and focused on the new technology of radio, he gained recognition in the company with his drive and showmanship and quickly moved into management. When Marconi Wireless was taken over by RCA, he continued to move up, taking over the presidency in 1930. By 1947 he was the CEO of RCA, the founder of NBC (1926, the first radio network) and well-known as a brilliant and ruthless businessman. Sarnoff is credited with suggesting that radios could be used for entertainment, predicting that they would become commonplace household items, and he was instrumental in the development of TV. While at RCA he spent a decade in litigation with Philo T. Farnsworth over who invented television. RCA ultimately lost the legal battle and bought the patent rights from Farnsworth in 1939.

Extra credit:

Sarnoff earned early recognition for spending 72 hours on the radio giving news coverage of the sinking of the Titanic… On July 2, 1921 he aired a boxing match between Jack Dempsey and George Carpentier, the first major entertainment broadcast in radio history… During World War II he was a communications consultant to the U.S. government, and was named a brigadier general by General Dwight Eisenhower; after the war Sarnoff used the nickname “The General.”

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