Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Philo Farnsworth (#85)

Philo Farnsworth


Philo Taylor Farnsworth was born on August 19, 1906 to a family living in Beaver, Utah. In 1918, the Farnsworth family moved to a farm in Rigby, Idaho. The house that they moved into was wired for electricity. Philo study the mechanical and electrical technology of the house and was soon able to fix the Delco generator that ran the house's farming equipment. He also was able to fix a discarded electric motor and use it to turn the family's hand-powered washing machine into an electrical washing machine. When he was in high school, Farnsworth came to his science teacher with ideas of an electronic television system, covering several blackboards with his diagrams. In 1922, when the Farnsworths moved to Provo, Utah, Philo stayed behind to work at a railway company so he could pay for classes at Brigham Young University. He came to live with his family again in 1923.

School and Early Career

In 1924, Farnsworth applied for the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was recruited when he got the second highest score in the nation on the academy tests. He left soon afterwards, though, when he learned that the government would own any patents Farnsworth earned. Farnsworth went back to Utah to help care for his family after his father's death. The family moved into a duplex with the family's friends, the Gardners. Cliff Gardner shared Farnsworth's interest in electronics and the two started up a radio repair business. After the business failed, Farnsworth met Leslie Gorrell and George Everson, who helped Farnsworth to fund his experiments on televisions. Farnsworth was able to get a laboratory in Los Angeles, but married Cliff Gardner's sister, Elma Gardner, before he left.

Electric Television

After moving to Los Angeles, Farnsworth applied for a patent on his designs. At the time, almost all television systems used at least some mechanical components. Farnsworth, instead, attempted to create a completely electronic television system. In 1927, Farnsworth finished his image dissector and transmitted a single straight line with it. By 1929, Farnsworth changed the design to not rely on a motor generator. THis made his system the first all-electronic television system.The other major innovator in the field of elctric televison was Vladmir Zworykin. In 1928, Farnsworth had lost two interference claims to Zworykin, but Zworykin was still unable to make it work properly. In 1930, Zworykin was hired by RCA, the leader in television development. In 1931, RCA attempted to buy Farnsworth's patents and hire Farnsworth in the process, but Farnsworth refused and went to work with the Philco company instead. RCA later filed an interference suit against Farnsworth, stating that Zworykin's 1923 patent had priority over Farnsworth's design. Farnsworth won the legal battle and a subsequent appeal by RCA, but a variety of issues led to a delay in RCA's payment of royalties to Farnsworth.  In 1932, Farnsworth met John Baird, who had given the world's first public demonstration of a working television system. Farnsworth and Baird worked together to compete with EMI to create the U.K. standard television system. When BBC chose the EMI system, Farnsworth returned to America. 

Later Work in Television and Science

In 1933, Farnsworth was let go from Philco and returned to his lab. Farnsworth worked with the University of Pennsylvania to create a method of sterilizing milk with radio waves. He also invented a fog-penetrating light beam for boats. In 1938, Farnsworth established the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation, and a year later, RCA finally agreed to pay Farnsworth one million dollars to license Farnsworth's 1927 Television patent. ITT, or International Telephone and Telegraph, bought Farnsworth Television and Radio in 1951. Farnsworth, at this company, worked to create a defense early warning system, submarine detection devices, radar calibration equipment, and infrared telescopes. Farnsworth also did work on nuclear fusion with ITT, Philo T. Farnsworth Associates (PTFA), and NASA. 

The End

PTFA lost funding for fusion research in 1970. A year later, Farnsworth caught pneumonia, dying on March 11, 1971. Farnsworth is on our list of important people because he invented the television that we know today. He also worked in many areas of science, creating the world we know today. He also predicted and started research on ideas that would later come true, including high-definition television and flat-screen television.