Electronic Design

Philo T. Farnsworth

Farnsworth (2003)

Today's all-electronic TV sets originated from teenaged Philo Farnsworth's fascination with "seeing pictures through the air" and the idea of the invisible electron. While plowing a potato field at age 14 in Rigby, Idaho, the method for his television system first became clear to him. At age 21, during his stint as a street cleaner, he was finally able to construct his "dream" thanks to recognition by his first financial backers, George Everson and Leslie Gorrell. Farnsworth received patents for television scanning, focusing, synchronizing, contrast, control, and power systems. During WWII, his company produced war materials and supplied electronic components to the federal government. After the war ended, fortunes changed because he was unable to keep pace with more aggressive electronics firms. Farnsworth's company was sold to ITT, where Farnsworth then worked on space-age contracts awarded by the Air Force and other government agencies. Here he invented components of the Defense Early Warning Signal, the PPI Projector (which allowed safe control of air traffic from the ground), an infrared telescope, submarine detection devices, radar calibration equipment, and other inventions. For a time, ITT also funded his new controlled-fusion ideas, but eventually costs lead them to terminate fusion research. He attempted to continue the research at Brigham Young University, but finances overwhelmed the project. Farnsworth, who also invented the first electron microscope and the first infant incubator, held 300 U.S. and foreign patents. He was also involved in the development of radar and peace-time uses of atomic energy.

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