Philo T. Farnsworth


Born: 19 August 1906
Died: 11 March 1971
Birthplace: Beaver County, Utah
Best known as: Inventor of the all-electronic television

Name at birth: Philo Taylor Farnsworth

Philo T. Farnsworth is now known as the inventor who didn't get enough credit for devising the first all-electronic television. Largely self-educated, Farnsworth grew up on farms in Utah and Idaho. As a boy he took an interest in electricity and electrons, and it's said he came up with the idea of electronically scanning images for transmission while he was in high school. He studied at Brigham Young University for two years (1923-25), but family responsibilities cut his college career short. With funding from friends and associates, Farnsworth moved to California to work on his dream of an electronic television system (earlier inventions had relied on mechanical parts). In 1927, at his lab in San Francisco, Farnsworth's "Image Dissector" transmitted the first electronic television image -- a straight line -- to a charged screen. Farnsworth spent the next decade arguing over patent rights in legal battles with David Sarnoff and engineer Vladimir Zworykin of RCA. In 1934 the U.S. Patent Office sided with Farnsworth, and in 1939 he sold his various patents to RCA. Although Farnsworth was awarded more than a hundred patents related to television, he did not become famous as "the inventor of television." Now it is generally agreed that the development of television involved many individuals, but it is also the consensus that Farnsworth deserves the lion's share of the credit.

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