Taylor Farnsworth, who has been called the forgotten father of television,
won a prize offered by the Science and Invention magazine
for developing a thief proof automobile ignition switch, at the
age of thirteen. Most remarkable from his high school experience
was the diagram he drew for his chemistry teacher, Justin Tolman.
This drawing proved to be the pattern for his later experiments
in electronics and was instrumental in winning a patent interference
case between Farnsworth and Radio Corporation of America (RCA).
Farnsworth's work spanned the continent. His first laboratories
were in his Hollywood home; later he and his family moved to San
Francisco, Philadelphia, Fort Wayne, Indiana and Salt Lake City.
Farnsworth's experimentation began in 1926 in San Francisco, where
he established his first corporation, Farnsworth Television Incorporated
in 1929. And here the first crude television image was created from
the Farnsworth system when a photograph of a young woman was transmitted
in the San Francisco Green Street laboratory on 7 September 1927.
The first patents for the Farnsworth television system were filed
1931, Farnsworth moved to Philadelphia to establish a television
department for Philco. By 1933 when Philco decided that television
patent research was no longer a part of its corporate vision, Farnsworth
returned to his own labs. In 1938, he established the Farnsworth
Television and Radio Corporation. This research and manufacturing
company was later purchased by the International Telephone and Telegraph
Company (IT and T). Farnsworth's work for IT and T included both
television and nuclear fusion. In December 1938, Farnsworth moved
to Salt Lake City to organize his last venture: Philo T. Farnsworth
and Associates. Its purpose was to continue the work on fusion he
started at IT&T.
to the corporate prospectus for Farnsworth and Associates the development
of Farnsworth's ideas over the years resulted in "every television
set sold utilizing at least six of his basic patents." Historian
Leonard J. Arrington credits Farnsworth with 150 U.S. patents and
"more than 100 foreign patents on various foreign inventions."
was an independent experimenter, a charismatic scientist, an idea
person who was able to initiate ideas and convince investors. However,
his primary focus was always in the laboratory. He was a workaholic
and often left the business, investment and management responsibilities
of his corporations to others as his experiments continued. He was
often so immersed is his inventions that it was reported he would
forget to eat. His health proved to be a challenge throughout his
life. His wife, Elma "Pem" Gardner-Farnsworth worked with him in
the earliest labs as a technician and a bookkeeper and Philo himself
said, "my wife and I started television." After Philo died it was
Pem who worked to assure his recognition for his inventions and
his consequent place in history. In many ways his work brings to
an end the era of independent inventors. He was the recipient of
numerous awards from scientific and honors societies, and the 1983
U.S. postal stamp commemorates the inventor. In 1981 a historical
marker was placed on the San Francisco Green Street Building where
the first Farnsworth television image was projected. In 1990 a statue
was dedicated in Washington's Statuary Hall--the inscription reads
Philo Taylor Farnsworth: Inventor of Television.
T(AYLOR) FARNSWORTH. Born in Beaver Creek, Utah, U.S.A., 19
August 1906. Educated at Rigby Idaho High School; attended Brigham
Young University, 1923-25. Married Elma "Pem" Gardner, 1926, four
children. Research director at Crocker Research Labs, 1926; founded
Farnsworth Television Incorporated, 1929; organized television department
for Philco, 1931-33; vice-president and director of research and
engineering at Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation, 1938;
researcher in television and nuclear fusion for International Telephone
and Telegraph Company, from 1949; president and director of research
for Farnsworth Research Corporation, 1957; president and director
of Philo T. Farnsworth Associates, Inc., 1968. Honorary doctorates
of science from the Indiana Institute of Technology, 1951; Brigham
Young University, 1968. Member of American Physics Society. Named
to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 1968. Died in Salt Lake
City, Utah, 11 March 1971.
Erik. Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1975.
George. The Story of Television: The Life of Philo T. Farnsworth.
New York: Norton, 1949.
Elma G. Distant Vision. Salt Lake City, Utah: Pemberly Kent,
Papers. Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, and University
of Utah Libraries, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Donald G., and Alf Pratte. "Elma 'Pem' Gardner Farnsworth: The Pioneering
of Television." Journalism History (Northridge, California),
Stephen F. "Philo Farnsworth: Television's Pioneer." Journal
of Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.), Spring 1979.