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Farnsworth Phil .

posted Jan 1, 2015, 10:43 PM by   [ updated Jul 8, 2019, 11:55 PM by Upali Salpadoru ]

Phil T Farnsworth..

                         1906 - 1971.

Fig.1 Philo Farnsworth.    Date of Birth August 19, 

Place of birth  Utah in US


Have you ever heard of him?   Not likely. 
He is the boy considered as ‘the Father of Television’ by the Time magazine. 

  Prior to him many attempts were made to get a ‘Picture – with- Radio’, but he is the one who made the all electronic TV without any moving parts. He had an Honorary Doctorate and he remains as a statue in the National Gallery in USA.


     Philo was born as the eldest of five children of Lewis Farnsworth, a farmer, and Serena Bastian. The parents had the intention of making him a concert violinist. They belonged to the Mormon sect of Christianity and lived in an old log cabin near Beaver. 

1917  Age. 11Yrs.

    The family moved house from Utah from the western region to Idaho in the North West. They undertook the journey, a distance of over 600 km. by a horse driven wagon.  As they were approaching the ranch in the low populated area, the eldest boy Philo, shouted, “This place has electricity”.

1920 Age 12 Yrs.

    Once they settled down, in between feeding animals and ploughing, he experimented with electricity. He attended the Rigby High School riding a horse.   

    He was such a keen student that his science teacher went out of his way to help him. The previous owner of the house had left behind some magazines on popular science. Reading of these fired his imagination. He decided to study electricity and become an inventor one day. Late into the night he read books and magazines mainly on science.

   Once he wound a motor and converted a hand operated washing machine to an electric appliance. That was the first electric washing machine they owned.

   His neighbour had a cranking telephone. He took a call to his aunt and when the voice came as she was by his side he was amazed. Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Alva Edison became his heroes.

   He participated in a Magazine contest and received a prize for a new type of an ignition lock for the Ford T.

   Once an article “Pictures that could fly through the air.” inspired his vision.  The writer described a picture coming along with the sound from a wireless receiver.  He read widely on radio transmission and decided to invent a mode to send pictures by a similar process.

1922 Age 14Yrs.

   Phill actually drew the sketches of it on a paper and explained it to his science teacher, Mr. Justin Tolman. It was a cathode ray tube which could shoot a stream of electrons on to a screen. He learned that everybody in the field were using spinning disks with holes and mirrors to obtain an image which was converted to electrical pulses  The boy knew that this would not work as there is a limit to the speed of rotating disks.

   Philo was harvesting potatoes in their farm, row by row, using a horse driven harrow, Suddenly it occurred to him that an image of an object may also be captured in a similar way ‘row by row’, in horizontal lines. Working very hard, all by himself he devised a sketch for a practical transmitter and a receiver using electronics.

His father realized the importance of keeping it confidential yet they had to try it out. They did not have the facilities or finances for the purpose. He thought of sending it as an article to a science magazine and consulted his science teacher, Mr. Justin Tolman.  The teacher got completely baffled by the unheard of device, but helped and encouraged the student.  

1924 Age 16 yrs.

Philo got admitted to Brigham Young University. Here he was free to experiment with electron beams which he wanted to use for his dream project Unfortunately at this juncture his father died. He became the bread winner of the family and was compelled to give up studies.

1926  Age 18 Yrs.

He had to serve the US navy for two years.

The family moved into a section of a twin house. The other half was occupied by another big family. Mr. Gardner had two boys and six pretty daughters.

1926 Age 21 Yrs.

Phil had to engage in various odd job­s to earn for the family. His sister looked after the younger children.­ He also followed a correspondence course in Radio repairs, conducted by the National Radio Institute along with Cliff Gardner, the eldest boy in the other house. The two friends opened up a radio repair shop. Within a short time They had to close shop as they did not get sufficient work

Philo fell in love with Elma; the prettiest sister of his partner.

 Luckily Farnsworth met two generous gentlemen, who had come on a community project; Leslie Gorrel and George Everson. They employed him in their bulk mailing business in Southern California.. Phil explained his idea of transmitting pictures. They formed a venture partnership known as Everson, Farnsworth & Gorrell. Everson said, “I’ve got $6000 in a savings account in San Francisco. I’d take a gamble. If we win, it will be fine; but if we lose I won’t cry”. It was a sweep for Phill and Cliff..

Phil Farnsworth and Elma (Pem) Gardner soon exchanged rings and drove off to San Francisco. Pem’s Brother Cliff also joined them.

1927  Age 22 Yrs.

The two friends produced a camera and a receiver by the end of summer

Fig 2.The landmark plaque at the corner of Green Streets refers to him as “The Genius of Green Street.”

            They started a Laboratory at 202, Green Street, San Frncisco. He research team comprisedof Phil, his wife Pam, and her brother Cliff. They work day and night as a closely knitted gang. The financiers kept their fingers crossed. After a few failures testing and re testing disheartened group got some confidence. After a few more months of juggling with it they invited Everson also for the trial. On 7th of September Everson sent a telegram to Gorrel , “The Damned thing works”. Philo Farnsworth was the first to transmit a television image using horizontal lines. The object was a dollar sign but the first human to be televised was his wife Elma. She had to face very powerful lights which became unbearably hot.

A newspaper added a new word to the Dictionary, TELEVISION, “It produced a queer looking bluish image with blurs…… but now the perfection is only a matter of engineering”.

1929  Age 24Yrs.

Elma also performed an important role in the discovery of the TV by her husband. She drew most of the sketches required for Phil and she had even assembled certain parts. Speaking of her Phil said, ”We are one person”.

1930 Age 25Yrs.

The Radio Corporation of America (RAC) offered to buy his patent rights pertaining to TV transmission. Farnsworth had no idea of selling at the time.

1931 Age 26Yrs.

Their first child was born and named as Kenneth.

They had to shut down the business as it was not successful.

He moved right across the country, over 4000 km., with his wife and young Kenneth to accept a post at Philco Storage Battery Company in Philadelphia.

Vladimir Zworykin from St Petersburg living in US also had invented a television system. Owner of his patents Radio Corporation of America fought a legal battle for the infringing of their patents.  

Brigham Young University conferred an Honorary Doctorate.

1933 Age 28Yrs.

The frustrated Farnsworth left Philco.

He once more started his own research ranging from sterilizing milk, using radio waves to nuclear fusion.

1934  Age 29Yrs.

Mr Tolman giving evidence in court produced the paper giving the plan of the TV the boy designed when he was a student.

1935 Age 30Yrs.

Finally the court decided the case in favour of Farnsworth. He founded the Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation

1938 Age 33Yrs.

Farnsworth sold the rights of TV to RCA for a million dollars. He commenced scientific research in a big way.

Fig.3 The Genius of the Green Street.

1950 Age 45 Yrs

Spending on research, without an income, and the legal battles sucked all his money and he became a pauper. He was also thoroughly disappointed with the low quality programmes. He comment about them was, "a way for people to waste a lot of their lives".  He got disgusted to such an extent that he did not keep a TV in his house.

1970 Age 64Yrs.

Farnsworth was compelled to stop all his research as he got buried in debt in spite of over one hundred US and foreign patents.

1971 Age 65Yrs.

Phil Farnsworth passed away peacefully in Salt Lake city.


USA issued a postage stamp in his honour.


His wife Ema (Pem) fought hard to keep her husband’s place as an inventor and died in her nineties


Fig.4.  National Gallery in USA.