Philo T. Farnsworth

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.

Philo T. Farnsworth worked for years on this complicated machine so you could sit around in your underwear and watch Jersey Shore all day. Thank you, Philo.

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.

As we wait for the film, we can kill time watching Megalyn Echikunwoke or Swoosie Kurtz filling our funny-name quota on Philo’s invention.

About Arto

Co-founder of the Funny Names Blog, Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and holder of a funny name himself with too many vowels for any sensible person. Currently residing in San Diego, California, scouring through obscure documents on a hunt for more funny names.
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6 Responses to Philo T. Farnsworth

  1. Jim Cantwell says:

    I would love to tell you what happened on Celebrity Apprentice but I cant because it is such a train wreck I dont watch it, I mean come on most of them are used to be’s and this is there last chance at fame hello arsenio haha. It really is quite sad that petents get ripped off and the money paid to the inventor if he wins is paid with by money that should have been his or hers in the first place so in fact he still loses … goes the cog in the machine

    • Dave says:

      I’m totally with you on that. I think Arto and I share a collective scorn toward that program.

      Arto’s wife is actually an inventor, and getting patent rights isn’t always easy… it’s unfortunate.

  2. robhcarlson says:

    I wrote a report on Philo in elementary school. A pretty cool and pretty underappreciated guy!

    I have also been to Beaver, Utah, and can say without hesitation that Philo is the only good thing to ever come out of that “city”. That place is a hellhole that is home to nothing except for a Super 8 Motel and a gas station which sells expired sandwiches. As my dad likes to say, “2nd prize is two trips!”

  3. flatflower1 says:

    Thanks for being a fan of Philo T. Farnsworth put you say ( Farnsworth’s story is compellingly told in a play from West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin called The Farnsworth Invention,) Aaron can only write fiction and that is what he has done here and you bought write into it. The play gives the patent win to RCA which is not true. Farnsworth won and RCA had to pay Farnsworth royalitys.

    • Dave says:

      You’re right about Sorkin, but I do know RCA made a lot of money off of Farnsworth’s idea before he could get the patent rights cleared up. Thanks for visiting the blog! We’ve got a new, informative funny-names post every weekday, and we’re soon going to be bringing some more “reader involvement” into the blog, which’ll keep it fresh!

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