Inventor Of The First Television

By Martin Gilliard

The inventor of the first television is widely thought to be Philo T. Farnsworth born in Beaver, Utah on August 19th, 1906. However there is an argument that one sole individual cannot be attributed to the invention of the electronic-television.

Some credit the beginnings of electronic-television to Vladimir Zworykin and his invention of the Iconoscope for RCA in 1923, a date four years prior to Farnsworth’s 1927 patent filing.

an old television

(Photo Credit Bob124)


Others credit Farnsworth and Zworykin as “co-inventors” of the electronic-television stating that it is a far too complex piece of equipment to have been invented by one individual.

That said, the conclusion of the patent office in their 1935 decision in interference #64,207 states “priority of invention awarded to Farnsworth”. Also witnesses heard Zworykin say on visiting Farnsworth’s laboratory in 1930… “I wish that I might have invented it.”

So electronic-television was started in the mind of Philo T Farnsworth when he was fourteen years old and was first successfully demonstrated in his San Francisco based laboratory on September 7th, 1927. On that day Farnsworth transmitted an “electrical image” without the use of any mechanical devices (previous attempts at transmitting moving images often involved spinning disks and mirrors). 

Just for you to note… Mechanical television began in 1883 with a patent for a mechanical “electric telescope” by a German named Paul Nipkow. However, it is thought that Nipkow didn’t build a working system. His ideas were developed into a working mechanical system in the 1920’s by the Scottish inventor John Logie Baird (1888 – 1946). Baird used a camera with an opaque scanning disk with punched holes in it that was rotated by an electric motor. The movement of the holes in the disk, combined with light sensitive photo-diodes and projected light coming thought the holes in the disk created a projected image.

Instead of mirrors and spinning disks Farnsworth was able to manipulate an electron beam which he deflected back and forth in a vacuum tube tens of thousands of times a second.

Since that date in 1927 Farnsworth spent a further ten years perfecting television for which he received over one hundred patents.

There were also many more engineers, particularly from RCA who contributed with incremental improvements to the electronic video technology prior to general public broadcasting in the 1950’s and since that date there have been thousands more incremental improvements to television to bring it forward to what we have today. 


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