SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Television is considered one of the most transformative pieces of technology in history. It’s used every day by viewers worldwide, but most likely don’t know who invented the electronic television — a man named Philo T. Farnsworth who is actually a native Utahn.
Philo was born in Beaver, Utah, in 1906. During his childhood, he had a passion for reading scientific magazines and was considered to be a technical prodigy at an early age.
While still in high school, Farnsworth was invited to attend Brigham Young University as a special student, where he would further his studies until the passing of his father a year later, which prompted him to leave to support his family.
With financial backing and help from his new wife, Pem Gartner, he began to work on his groundbreaking idea.
By 1927, Farnsworth had finally made his first successful electronic television transmission and would file a patent for its innovative camera tube system. The next year, after tweaking his system even further, he gave a brief demonstration of his television to the press with a projected image of a dollar bill.
Over the next several years, his invention was gaining worldwide attention, and, in 1934, various broadcast demonstrations were running for viewers across Philadelphia. By 1936, he began transmitting scheduled television programming from his laboratory.
Soon the new invention became so popular that Radio Corporation of America offered Farnsworth $100,000 for his idea — though he rejected their offer. His rejection resulted in a series of taxing court battles as RCA made attempts to invalidate his patents for television.
Finally, in 1939, RCA agreed to pay royalties to the inventor for his patented components, and Farnsworth would move to Maine to focus on his health after a nervous breakdown.
In the years to follow, Farnsworth would continue his research in various roles and become a pioneer behind several developments including radar systems, infrared night vision, and even nuclear fusion.
During his later life, as Farnsworth struggled with finances and stress-related depression, he and his wife Pem moved back to Utah in the spring of 1967.
After his death from pneumonia in 1971, Pem would fight to keep Philo’s legacy intact as the father of modern television. Since then, he’s been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the Television Academy Hall of Fame.