Philo T. Farnsworth (at 13
Probably, the most important
invention of early television was the Nipkow scanning
disk. The patent papers included a complete closed circuit camera and a receiver.
The drawing presented here appears in the original papers. Note that there are
no amplifiers in this schematic. This was because the year was 1884, long before
the vacuum tube was invented. Paul Nipkow was never able to make his invention
work. Others would do that later. The most significant part of the Nipkow invention
was the scanning disk itself and the fact that it could not only dissect the image
in an orderly manner, but that another disk just like it, could reconstruct the
image back into its original form. This was a significant step forward in the
advancement of television.
step forward was made by A. A. Campbell Swinton of Scotland. As early as 1908
he recognized and wrote that mechanical means were not capable
of operating at speeds that would be necessary for high definition (300-400 lines)
television. Only by using cathode rays, which exhibit no inertia, could this be
accomplished. In 1911 he firmed up his idea and published this schematic. Cathode
ray Television of today, all over the world follows Campbell Swinton's ideas exactly.
third important step was the first successful camera tube, the Image Dissector
invented by Philo T. Farnsworth. Just a farm boy from Utah, pictured above at
the age of 13, he spent much of his youth concerned with television. For the most
part self educated, he recognized the inherent limitations of the mechanical methods
being considered and so went on to develop a totally electronic television
system, much like that described by Campbell Swinton some years earlier. When
he was 16 years old and in high school, he drew this schematic of the image dissector
for one of his instructors. In later years using his image dissector, Philo Farnsworth
was the first to demonstrate a complete operating television system that was totally
electronic. Also very important, were many of the individual patents that comprised
It's worth noting that Philo
Farnsworth was also an effective manager/engineer and you might say he was very
efficient in his work. His main competition was the RCA company, including David
Sarnoff, Vladimir K. Zworykin and a staff of about 45 good people. In comparison,
Philo Farnsworth was usually operating with about 25% of the manpower and at best
about 10 % of the RCA budget. In spite of this, he produced a totally electronic
system before they could and in doing so, he developed and patented some of the
most basic and important ideas in television. The story of Philo Farnsworth, his
life and his work, is important and is an absolute "must read" for everyone
interested in television history.
I that I have recently read, and one I recommend you read is: "Philo T. Farnsworth,
The Father of Television" by Donald Godfrey (2001).
comment. In 1919, the Farnsworth family moved to a farmhouse near Rigby,
Idaho. In the attic, Philo found a stack of scientific and semi-technical magazines,
including issues of Electrical Experimenter /Science and Invention. Note: I have
never seen a complete list of the magazines that were found there, other than
to say that some were issues of Electrical Experimenter/Science and Invention.
have found that in the issues for May and June 1918 of this magazine, Hugo Gernsback,
the magazines owner/editor wrote and published a 2-part article "Television
and the Telephot". In the second part of this article, he included and described
this drawing of a mechanical/optical camera. Note that the "Sender"
optically causes a focused image to pass back and forth and up and down, just
as the electron image does in Farnsworth's dissector. As this optical image passes
across a small diameter tube that is fixed in place, the tube effectively "samples"
the image as it passes by and here again, just as the fixed aperture does in the
Philo's dissector. Can you see the resemblance? Could it be that this particular
article, which included information about the accomplishments of Rosing and Swinton
as well as others, that it might have had a significant effect on Farnsworth and
his ideas?? How about that! What do you think??
am inclined to believe that Philo saw it, read it and it did in fact influence
his work on the dissector. I base this on having read numerous references of how
Philo was going out of his way to read everything he could about electrons, magnetic
fields and science in general. This all took place in 1919-1920 and the magazines
were at this time 1 1/2 to 2 years old... and so they fit in the correct time
frame. I also base this conclusion on my experience in working with others, in
that most ideas, including "new" ones, are based on some previous ideas
or experiences. And if all this is true... to me it shows the true genius in this
man. Because no one else envisioned what he did, when he did. What Philo did was
to connect the dots... before anyone else even saw the dots. He was 13 years old!
... WOW! Amazing!