Sarnoff David life and biography

Sarnoff David picture, image, poster

Sarnoff David biography

Date of birth : 1891-02-27
Date of death : 1971-12-12
Birthplace : Uzlyany, Belarus
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-05-07
Credited as : Businessman and pioneer of radio and television, The General, Founder of NBC

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David Sarnoff ( February 27, 1891 – December 12, 1971) was an American businessman and pioneer of American commercial radio and television. He founded the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and throughout most of his career he led the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in various capacities from shortly after its founding in 1919 until his retirement in 1970.

He ruled over an ever-growing telecommunications and consumer electronics empire to include both RCA and NBC, which became one of the largest companies in the world. Named a Reserve Brigadier General of the Signal Corps in 1945, Sarnoff thereafter was widely known as "The General".

Sarnoff is credited with Sarnoff's law, which states that the value of a broadcast network is proportional to the number of viewers.

An eternal advocate of the power of broadcasting, David Sarnoff worked his way up from office boy to become the president of RCA, and predicted the immense popularity of not only the regular household radio but also the television. It was his vision that allowed RCA to become one of the biggest and wealthiest companies in the entire world.


Born in Russia to a Jewish family, young David was only able to go to the United States after his father had made the passage over and saved up enough funds to bring over the family. When he arrived in New York City in 1900, the lively city caught his immediate attention. He began school and sold newspapers to help support the family’s new life. It was only by chance that he became an office boy for Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America – a decisive route that would keep Sarnoff involved in the newly-established worlds of electronics and business.


Before fifteen years had passed, David Sarnoff had risen to become manager of the company. After success in his early days at installing the equipment, his ability to think beyond, and winning a decisive patent case gained him promotion after promotion. It was in 1915 when he proposed that the company, soon to be called RCA, should get involved in the ‘radio and music box’ business. But, it wasn’t until four years later, after WWI, that the company started paying attention to Sarnoff’s predictions and production couldn’t keep up with demand.


Within ten years, he rose even higher in the company. This time, it was a newer technology that had become his obsession – the television. RCA wanted to have a monopoly on the home ‘moving picture’ market as well. Sarnoff funded Vladimir Zworykin with 100,000 USD. But, it took well over 45 million USD, twenty years, and Sarnoff’s role as company president before RCA would take over the home television market.


Although David Sarnoff never published his autobiography, he had an interesting role with Dwight D. Eisenhower as a seer of the power of propaganda during the war. Sarnoff has been recognized worldwide for his role as the CEO of RCA. He was awarded over 25 honorary degrees from universities and other prestigious awards at home and abroad before passing away in 1971, one year after his retirement.



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