Cover image for Philo T. Farnsworth : the father of television
Philo T. Farnsworth : the father of television
Godfrey, Donald G.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Salt Lake City, UT : University of Utah Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xviii, 307 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


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TK6635.F3 G64 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Philo T. Farnsworth (1906-1971) has been called the "forgotten father of television." He grew up in Utah and southern Idaho, and was described as a genius by those who knew and worked with him. With only a high school education, Farnsworth drew his first television schematic for his high school teacher in Rigby, Idaho. Subsequent claims and litigation notwithstanding, he was the first to transmit a television image.

Farnsworth filed ten patents between 1927 and 1929 for camera tubes (transmitting), circuitry, and the cathode ray tube (viewing). After his early years as an inventor in San Francisco, he worked as an engineer, doing battle with RCA in the 1930s over patent rights, formed the Farnsworth Television Company in the 1940s, and worked for IT&T after their purchase of the Farnsworth enterprises. Every television set sold utilized at least six of his basic patents.

Because of endless legal wrangling with RCA over patent rights, he received very little financial reward for his television patents. Donald Godfrey examines the genius and the failures in the life of Philo Farnsworth as he struggled to be both inventor and entrepreneur.

Author Notes

Donald Godfrey, Ph.D., is professor in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Telecommunication at Arizona State University.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Godfrey (Arizona State Univ.) offers an enjoyable read for the history-in-technology professional, hobbyist, or student. He combines satisfying technical detail and accuracy with a balanced narrative of the personal life of Farnsworth, the "father" of television, and the significant people in his personal life and professional career. It is pleasing that the author avoids passing judgment on the important players in the story of the commercial development of television. He reports only on the evident behavior of the characters, leaving out the revisionist, tabloid-borne practice of many popular history writers to go to any length to unearth and dramatize personal shortcomings of heroes no longer around to defend themselves. It would have been useful to have more reported commentary from Farnsworth's contemporaries in science, engineering, and business, to help round out this image of the man. Perhaps Philo Farnsworth, as well, commented on his heroes and others in his profession--we would have learned that much more about him from reading more of his views of people and events in his world. General readers; undergraduates; faculty; professionals. S. R. Walk Maine Maritime Academy

Table of Contents

Christopher H. Sterling
List of Illustrationsp. viii
Foreword: Rescuing a Television Pioneerp. xi
Prefacep. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
1. Youthful Genius: 1906-1926p. 3
2. The Experimentation Stage of Farnsworth's Career: 1926-1931p. 17
3. Implementation--TV Station and Public Demonstration: 1931-1934p. 47
4. Farnsworth versus RCA: 1932-1939p. 71
5. Farnsworth Television Incorporated: 1935-1938p. 77
6. Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation: 1938-1942p. 109
7. Farnsworth Television and Radio, Wartime Success: 1939-1948p. 135
8. Farnsworth Television, the Final Decades: 1949-1971p. 157
9. The Farnsworth Legaciesp. 177
Appendix A. U.S. Patents Issued to Philo T. Farnsworthp. 189
Appendix B. The Chronology of "Firsts"p. 195
Appendix C. Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation Transactions on the New York Stock Exchangep. 199
Appendix D. The History of Farnsworth Wood Productsp. 201
Appendix E. A History of Farnsworth Television and Radio Corporation: 1942-1948p. 203
Appendix F. ITT-Farnsworth Division Management Historyp. 217
Appendix G. ITT Capehart-Farnsworth Historyp. 219
Appendix H. Farnsworth Electronics Historyp. 221
Notesp. 223
Selected Bibliographyp. 285
Indexp. 297