From "Radio's 100 Men of Science," published 1944:
Philo Taylor Farnsworth, specialist in cathode-ray
tubes as applied to television, first became interested in
electricity through a farm lighting system and its electric motors.
Popular magazines told him of "such a thing called television,"
and he linked his life work to it. Farnsworth was described by a
friend as "an omnivorous reader of scientific literature. While at
Rigby (Idaho) high school, 1921-22, he delved into the molecular
theory of matter, electrons, the Einstein theory, automobile
engines, model airplanes and chemistry.
He went to Glen Falls, Idaho in 1923 as an electrician
on a railroad, then to Provo, Utah to work in a machine shop. In
1924 he enrolled in the University, but at the end of the second year,
his father died and young Farnsworth left college to help support the
family. He entered the radio business at Salt Lake City as a serviceman,
but the shop failed and he went to work in the railroad yards.
One day in applying for a job in connection with the Salt
Lake City Community Chest campaign, he met Leslie Gorrell and George
Everson of San Francisco, who were conducting the drive. Farnsworth
was hired. As the men became acquainted it was natural that they
should learn about television from the young man. This was a turning
point. Everson agreed to finance the idea. A laboratory was set up in
Los Angeles. In October, 1926, with additional financial assistance,
they established the Crocker Research Laboratories in San Francisco
"to take all the moving parts out of television." The idea conceived
in 1922 was brought to a practical result in 1927 when a sixty-line
image of a dollar sign was the first image Farnsworth transmitted.
(Note: Compare these dates to the 1923 start of Scotsman J.L.
Baird on development of his mechanical TV system, and showing it for the
first time in February, 1927, and Zworykin's first patent
application for the basis of his iconoscope while a university graduate
student in December, 1923. Farnsworth with his notion in 1922 at age
16 was truly a child prodigy by comparison.) The company was
reorganized as Television Laboratories, Inc.; and later in May, 1929
was renamed Farnsworth Television, Inc. of California.
Farnsworth's first application for a patent cover a complete
electronic television system, including an "image dissector tube." was
made January 7, 1927. The image dissector was used to scan the image
for transmission. At the receiver, an "oscillite" tube reproduced the
picture. An electron multiplier tube, which Farnsworth called a
"multipactor," increased the sensitivity of the image dissector.
from the National Inventors' Hall of fame:
Philo Taylor Farnsworth
Philo Taylor Farnsworth's electronic inventions took all of
the moving parts out of televisions and made possible today's TV
industry, the TV shots from the moon, and satellite pictures. Born in
Beaver, Utah, Farnsworth, was educated in the Utah and Idaho public
school systems and while at Rigby (Idaho) High School in 1921
delved into the molecular theory of matter, electrons and the
Einstein theory. He also studied automobile engines and chemistry.
In 1926 Farnsworth joined the Crocker Research Laboratories in San
Francisco. At the age of 20 he produced the first all-electronic
Farnsworth's basic television patents covered scanning,
focusing, synchronizing, contrast, controls, and power. He also
invented the first cold cathode ray tubes and the first simple
electronic microscope. He used radio waves to get direction (later
called radar) and black light for seeing at night (used in World
War II). During the 1960s he worked on special-purpose TV, missiles,
and the peaceful uses of atomic energy. Before his death, he worked
on a nuclear fusion process to produce clean, virtually unlimited
energy; he held two fusion energy patents. When he died at age 64,
he held more than 300 U.S. and foreign patents.
Born August 19, 1906 - Died March 11, 1971
Patent No. 1,773,980
from Tube: the invention of television, by David and Marshall Jon Fisher
Television's earliest pioneer was John Logie Baird. A
Scot, Baird had been fired from his job as assistant mains engineer
after blowing up the Glasgow municipal power supply in an attempt
to create diamonds in a cement pot. He had also concocted a cure
for hemorrhoids, tried it on himself, and been unable to sit for
a week; designed a glass rustless razor that wounded him badly;
and developed pneumatic shoes that burst. In early 1923 he decided
his next move would be to invent television. Baird produced the
world's first TV picture that year, the first public demonstration
in 1925, the first government license in 1926, and the first
color and transatlantic transmissions in 1928.
Meanwhile in America, Charles Foster Jenkins (Quaker farm
boy from Ohio, college dropout, and one of history's most prolific
and wealthy inventors) transmitted moving pictures of a windmill
in 1925. In 1928 Jenkins broadcast publicly from Jersey City, and
Wall Street rewarded Jenkins's corporation with $10 million in
stock. By 1928's end, 18 stations were broadcasting across America,
using Jenkins's system and that of others. But the First Great
Television Boom, as Tube calls it, went bust by 1932. Images were so
murky that announcers would describe what the audience should
see, and all existing systems used mechanical scanning, which
was inherently too slow and bulky. The way ahead belonged to the two
proponents of purely electronic television, Farnsworth and Zworykin.
As depicted in Tube, television's inventors seem to be
figures endowed with an archetypal purity. None more so than Philo
Farnsworth, who at 14, while mowing his Mormon father's hay field in
Idaho in 1921, had a vision of images formed by an electronic beam
scanning a picture in horizontal lines just like the mown field
before him. He would create the cathode-ray camera tube a few years
later. By 21, he was designing the multipactor tube, the core of the
Farnsworth Image Dissector, the mechanism behind television scanning,
and using Fourier analysis, which he had taught himself.
Farnsworth's misfortune was that he competed against a figure
who perfectly represented another, perhaps more modern, type of
American genius. David Sarnoff had risen from New York's Jewish
ghetto through RCA's ranks. In 1932, he exploited a federal antitrust
proceeding that broke up the GE/Westinghouse/RCA conglomerate on terms
that kept RCA the leader in radio and gave him complete control of the
company. Sarnoff's idea that RCA would have a "total systems" approach
to the new television industry -- manufacturing, servicing, broadcasting
networks, content -- made him the world's first systems integrator and
a figure of Gatesian proportions.
Sarnoff made Farnsworth an offer, but Farnsworth said he would
cede his brainchild only on a royalty basis. Sarnoff believed that what
RCA needed, it must buy and control outright. And Sarnoff had Vladimir
Zworykin. The only credentialed scientist among TV's inventors, Zworykin
was perhaps as brilliant as Farnsworth, and he was developing his
Iconoscope with all the weight of RCA behind him. Yet in the end, though
Zworykin created the standards on which television was based, RCA was
forced to pay royalties for the Image Dissector. Despite the payoff,
Farnsworth, depressed after the years of struggle, developed a severe
drinking problem and spent his money and remaining years fruitlessly
pursuing the secret of nuclear fusion.