Did you see the last episode of Celebrity Apprentice? No? I didn’t either. Whatever happened (psssst, tell me in the comments), I’m positive it would’ve been much better had it featured today’s subject, the great Philo T. Farnsworth.
Philo Farnsworth was born near Beaver, Utah in 1906. Yes, Beaver.
He is best known as the inventor of the television. Young Philo developed an early system of television transmission called the image dissector (a much catchier name) in 1927. When his investors got impatient and demanded to know when they could see some money out of this invention, Philo put on a public demonstration where the first thing projected out of his machine was a dollar sign. That must have satisfied them.
While many others had been previously working on development of the television, what Farnsworth invented was the world’s first all-electronic television system.
As one might expect, one of the major electronics companies at the time, RCA, went on to rip off his patents and started off a decades-long legal battle which Farnsworth finally ended up winning, freeing him to develop other inventions such as as a process to sterilize milk using radio waves. That one didn’t really take off in the same way.
Farnsworth’s story is compellingly told in a play from West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin called The Farnsworth Invention, which Steven Spielberg was rumored to be interested in bringing to screens as a feature film.