Philo Taylor Farnsworth

Philo Taylor Farnsworth

Beaver, Beaver County, Utah, USA
Death 11 Mar 1971 (aged 64)
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, USA
Burial Provo, Utah County, Utah, USA
Plot Block 10 Lot 18 (South side, near the gate on S. Center St.)
Memorial ID 3661 · View Source
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Inventor. He is best remembered for his contributions to television, radar, and the nuclear industry. Born in Beaver, Utah, he became interested in science and technology at age 12, when his father moved the family to Rigby, Idaho, where the family worked a farm. Young Philo’s interest in electronics started with a long distance telephone call to a relative, and was further peaked by the discovery of a large box of technology magazines in the attic of the family’s new home. In 1922, at the age of 16, he developed the idea of the image dissector, which he would later state came to him in an inspiration while plowing a potato field, row by row. He realized that an electron beam could scan an image in much the same way, line by line, just as people read a book. He patented the idea of the Cathode Ray Tube just six years later. He was further inspired by his high school chemistry teacher, Justin Tolman, who gave him extra instruction. At age 16, he was accepted to Brigham Young University, but was forced to leave after his sophomore year, when his father died suddenly. After a brief stint in the US Navy, Philo returned to Idaho to support his mother. In 1926, he formed a partnership with George Everson, moving to San Francisco to set up a lab, where he worked on his television. On September 7, 1927, he demonstrated the principle of television by sending an image from one room to another, proving that television was possible. By 1936, Farnsworth’s company was transmitting regular entertainment programs, and shortly after, he signed a deal to form standard television programs for Great Britain. After inventing a camera tube he called the Iconoscope and setting up his own television manufacturing company, Farnsworth was sued by the RCA Corporation over royalties, contending that RCA inventor Vladimir Zworykin had invented the tube in 1926. Farnsworth’s high school teacher, Justin Tolman, proved the case by showing the court a drawing Philo had made at age 16 while in high school; the drawing was an almost exact replica of the Image Dissector. RCA paid Farnsworth royalties for only two years. During World War II, the US Government suspended sales of television sets, and Philo’s patents expired at the end of the war. After the war, RCA quickly took over the television market, without having to pay Philo any additional royalties. In 1947, he suffered a nervous breakdown, made worse by excessive drinking. Philo Farnsworth went on to invent over 165 different devices including equipment for converting an optical image into an electrical signal, amplifier, cathode-ray, vacuum tubes, electrical scanners, electron multipliers and photoelectric materials. Following the war, Philo worked on a fusor, an apparatus designed to create nuclear fusion, which he hoped would make electricity virtually cost free. When introduced into the nuclear research world in the late 1960s, many hoped the fusor would lead to a practical neutron source, and it has been commercially produced for this role. He died in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1971. Farnsworth has been honored several times: a plaque honoring him as “the Genius of Green Street” is at 202 Green Street, the site of his San Francisco laboratory, and a statue of Farnsworth represents the state of Utah in the hall of fame in the US Capitol building. In December 2005, the Boy Scouts of America posthumously honored him with his Eagle Scout Badge, which he had not received during his childhood, caused by the family move to Idaho.

Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson




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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 4 Oct 1998
  • Find a Grave Memorial 3661
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Philo Taylor Farnsworth (19 Aug 1906–11 Mar 1971), Find a Grave Memorial no. 3661, citing Provo City Cemetery, Provo, Utah County, Utah, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .