The following is an excerpt. Read the entire essay in:
The Intellectual Handyman On Art
a new book by Gary R. Peterson
There is much controversy as to who gets the dubious honor of being the inventor of the boob tube. In my mind it is clear. Television was born in 1927, give or take twenty years, fathered by a man named Philo T. Farnsworth, an electrical engineer from Utah. And it was imagination, not necessity that was the mother of this invention.
It can be argued that the advent of television was actually a culmination of individual achievements by people like Karl Ferdinand Braun who developed the first cathode ray tube before the turn of that century, or Vladymir Zworykin who filed a patent for a gizmo that was suspiciously like the iconoscope that Farnsworth developed, except that Zworykin’s conceptual version was apparently one spark short of a circuit. A working model of his device was not actually built until many years after Farnsworth’s offering. Sometimes the spoils of victory go to the inventor with the best PR (public relations) much like Sir Isaac Newton stole Gottfried Leibnitz’s thunder with the invention of calculus back in the 18th century. But I give the TV honor to Farnsworth (who also received an honorary doctorate from Brigham Young University) because he had the vision, no pun intended, but more so, the intent to create exactly the system of components that we’ve come to know as television: the elaborate jumble of modulators, rectifiers and transmitters that let us peek, voyeuristically at times, through that proverbial window on the world that is so indispensable to us today. Besides, who can forget a name like his? If I had been a publicist back in the 1920s, and he had asked me for advice on how he could be assured of the distinction of being recognized as the inventor of television, I would have told him to change his name to something like Philo T. Farnsworth.