Farnsworth Philo life and biography

Farnsworth Philo picture, image, poster

Farnsworth Philo biography

Date of birth : 1906-08-19
Date of death : 1971-03-11
Birthplace : Beaver, Utah, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-05-25
Credited as : Inventor television, Nuclear fusion device, the Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor

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Philo Taylor Farnsworth (August 19, 1906 – March 11, 1971) was an American inventor and television pioneer. Although he made many contributions that were crucial to the early development of all-electronic television, he is perhaps best known for inventing the first fully-functional all-electronic image pickup device (video camera tube), the "image dissector", the first fully-functional and complete all-electronic television system, and for being the first person to demonstrate such a system to the public.

In later life, Farnsworth invented a small nuclear fusion device, the Farnsworth–Hirsch Fusor, or simply "fusor", employing inertial electrostatic confinement(IEC). Although not a practical device for generating nuclear energy, the fusor serves as a viable source of neutrons.

An inventor who held more than 150 patents in the U.S. and nearly 300 abroad, Philo Farnsworth is most famous for his invention of the television. In court hearings, it was determined through the testimony of his chemistry teacher that the young Philo had invented an image system in high school, which won him a patent case against giant RCA, who claimed they first invented the system.

From that point on, Farnsworth was an unstoppable genius in the field of electronic image projection. When he was younger, he would read about electricity, something he didn’t have on his family’s Utah farm. But, when the family moved to Idaho, they had a small generator plant on the farm that Philo was put in charge of. In his teens, he even won a national contest for inventors, which gave the world a taste of what he had his mind set on doing.

When he read about scientists who were attempting to send images electronically through broadcasting, Farnsworth became obsessed. His high school teacher, Justin Tolman, supported the young inventor’s ambitions and even let him experiment in his classroom. Upon completing high school, Farnsworth took physics courses and later attended Brigham Young University. His professors were astounded at his knowledge in theories of electronic imagery that they gave him free reign in the chemistry and glass labs where he came up with the cathode ray.

Although he was the man responsible for its technology, Farnsworth appeared only once on a television program. On July 3, 1957, he was a mystery guest ("Doctor X") on the TV quiz show I've Got A Secret. He fielded questions from the panel as they unsuccessfully tried to guess his secret ("I invented electronic television."). For stumping the panel, he received $80 and a carton of Winston cigarettes.

In the interview with host Garry Moore, Dr. Farnsworth said: "There had been attempts to devise a television system using mechanical disks and rotating mirrors and vibrating mirrors--all mechanical. My contribution was to take out the moving parts and make the thing entirely electronic, and that was the concept that I had when I was just a freshman in high school [in the Spring of 1921 at age 14]." When Moore asked about others' contributions, Dr. Farnsworth .agreed, "There are literally thousands of inventions important to television. I hold something in excess of 165 American patents." The host then asked about his current research, and the inventor replied, "In television, we're attempting first to make better utilization of the bandwidth, because we think we can eventually get in excess of 2000 lines instead of 525 ... and do it on an even narrower channel ... which will make for a much sharper picture. We believe in the picture-frame type of a picture, where the visual display will be just a screen. And we hope for a memory, so that the picture will be just as though it's pasted on there."

Philo Farnsworth then moved back to Salt Lake City where he was acquainted with business associates and investors George Everson and Leslie Gorell, who thereafter invested money into Philo’s research. With other backing, he started a lab in San Francisco and was given a year to show what he could do. The day after getting married, he went to San Francisco to continue his research. Just before the year deadline, Farnsworth had created the first digital image of his wife. Stunned with this invention, his investors formed Television Laboratories, Inc. and made Farnsworth vice president.

After winning against RCA for patent rights, his system was first released in Europe and Great Britain. Following, it was released in the United States. Among the hundreds of other patents Farnsworth filed, he invented modern radar, electronical surveillance systems, and the electron microscope. During World War II, he made lucrative profits with governmental contracts, and before his death, he was intent on studying the possibilities of atomic energy.


* In 2006, Farnsworth was posthumously presented the Eagle Scout award when it was discovered he had earned it but had never been presented with it. The award was presented to his wife, Pem, who died four months later.
* A bronze statue of Farnsworth represents Utah in the National Statuary Hall Collection, located in the U.S. Capitol building. Another statue sits inside the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City
* The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker located at 1260 E. Mermaid Lane, Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania commemorating the "Farnsworth Television" shop established there in the summer of 1933. The Plaque reads "Inventor of electronic television, he led some of the first experiments in live local TV broadcasting in the late 1930s from his station W3XPF located on this site. A pioneer in electronics, Farnsworth held many patents and was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame."
* On September 15, 1981 a plaque honoring Farnsworth as The Genius of Green Street was placed on the 202 Green Street location (37.80037N, 122.40251W) of his research laboratory in San Francisco, California by the State Department of Parks and recreation.
* The scenic "Farnsworth Steps" in San Francisco lead from Willard Street (just above Parnassus) up to Edgewood Avenue, passing Farnsworth's former residence at the top.
* A plaque honoring Farnsworth is located next to his former home in a historical district on the southwest corner of East State and St. Joseph boulevards in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
* Farnsworth's television-related work, including an original TV tube he developed, are on display at the Farnsworth TV & Pioneer Museum at 118 W. 1st S. Rigby, Idaho.
* A Farnsworth image dissector is on display at Fry's Electronics in Sunnyvale, California, along with other artifacts of the history of electronics in Silicon Valley.
* The Philo Awards named after Philo Farnsworth is an annual Public access television competition where the winners receive notice for their efforts in various categories in producing Community Media.
* Several buildings and streets around rural Brownfield, Maine are named for Farnsworth as he lived there for some time.
* A 1983 United States postage stamp honored Farnsworth.
* The character Professor Hubert Farnsworth on Futurama is presumably named for him.
* In March 2008, the Letterman Digital Arts Center installed a statue of Farnsworth in front of its D building.
* Since 2003, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) has awarded the Philo T. Farnsworth Corporate Achievement Award on an irregular schedule, to companies who have significantly affected the state of television and broadcast engineering over a long period of time.

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