– PEOPLE WORTH REMEMBERING –

Philo Farnsworth was born in Utah in 1906. In 1918 the family moved to Idaho, where 12-year-old Philo was fascinated by the electrical generator that provided power. He had a gift for electronics and machinery, often repairing the generator and repairing broken equipment discarded by previous tenants. He electrified his mother’s hand-powered washing machine after devouring a stash of electronic magazines found in the attic.

• In high school, he excelled in chemistry and physics. At the age of 14, he shared diagrams with his science teacher that would form the basis of the television revolution.

• After graduating from high school in 1924, Farnsworth attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland, scoring the 2nd highest on their recruiting tests ever. Within just a few months, however, he discovered that anything he invented while working for the Navy would belong to the Navy. Farnsworth was already working out the details of television and didn’t want to share. He secured an honorable discharge and returned to his family in Utah.

• At Brigham Young University, he attended every science class, focusing on radio technology and using their labs. Here he met Elma Gardner, marrying her in 1926.

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• While living in Salt Lake City, Farnsworth    met up with two philanthropists from San Francisco who agreed to underwrite Philo’s research, setting up a laboratory for him in California. They encouraged him to patent everything he produced. He had the foresight to work with a nationally prominent patent attorney who specialized in electrophysics.

• On September 7, 1927, Philo Farnsworth used his newly invented “image dissector camera tube” to transmit a single simple straight line to a receiver in a different room. It was history’s first television image.

A year later, he demonstrated it for the press, transmitting an image of a dollar sign in order to satisfy his investors that profits were on the way. Later he transmitted a three-inch version of his wife, the first images of a live human.

• Many other inventors had previously constructed electromechanical television systems, but Philo was the first to overcome their limitations by inventing the first all-electronic television.

• RCA had been working to accomplish this, but Philo beat them to the punch. Their top engineer visited Philo’s lab, took notes, copied the design, and then built his own model for RCA. In 1931, RCA tried to buy Farnsworth’s patents for $100,000 (worth $2 million today) and offered him a job, but Farnsworth declined. RCA subsequently sued Farnsworth for patent infringement, a case that dragged on for ten years. Farnsworth prevailed, not only because of his top-notch patent attorney, but also because his high school science teacher produced the diagrams Farnsworth had drawn as a teenager. RCA eventually licensed Farnsworth’s patents, paying him royalties.

• In 1936, his device was used to broadcast the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. By 1939, RCA was selling televisions coast to coast.

• Farnsworth died of pneumonia in 1971. By then, he had seen his invention transform society. He had mixed emotions about it, until he watched the Apollo Moon landing, televised nationwide because of technology he invented. Farnsworth held 300 patents that contributed to infrared night vision goggles, electron microscope, infant incubator, endoscope, and telescopes. He invented a way to sterilize milk using radio waves, a fog-penetrating beam for ships and planes, an early warning defense signal, submarine detection devices, and an improvement of radar technology that served as the basis for today’s air traffic control systems.