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The Abilities of an American Inventor

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The Abilities of an American Inventor GEN/200 Alice McBride
David Swensen
University of Phoenix

The Abilities of an American Inventor At first glance it appears as though Philo Farnsworth, at a very young age, developed a natural ability to understand complicated concepts. At 14 years of age, Philo envisioned a way to create the all electronic television. Later, at 21, he was able, with the help of his wife and her brother, to build all the components, and assemble the first television. The time in between these two events seems to point to something other than just technical ability. Philo was able to create and also recognize opportunities. To most people, this may be more important. Most people will probably not invent anything at all, let alone something that has had the impact on our lives that television has, but we can all look back on our lives, and see opportunity that we have missed, or maybe a time we did not put forth the effort we should have. Philo’s ability to seize an opportunity is something we can all learn to achieve (Encyclopedia of World Biography, Thomas Gale, Edition 1, 1998).

Philo Farnsworth was born in Indian Creek, near Beaver Utah, on August 19th, 1906. There was no electricity where Philo lived. Philo’s father, Lewis Farnsworth, would often discuss the technical aspects of such devices as the telephone, gramophone, and locomotives with his son. Philo also would read technical and radio magazines. When the family moved to a farm in Idaho that had it own power plant, Philo took the opportunity to study the plant, and master the lighting system. He was soon put in charge of maintaining the power plant (Postman, 1999).

It was apparent that Philo was an inventor before he even went to high school. At age 13, he won a national inventors contest. At the time he attended high school he was already reading about inventers that were trying to transmit visual images by mechanical means. Philo felt that the mechanical system would have trouble working because the device that would transmit the images could not spin fast enough. For two years, he worked on an electronic alternative. He came up with the basic design for the electronic television in 1922. Then, he took his ideas and drawings to his high school chemistry teacher, Justin Tolman. The drawings, and Philo’s ideas, made a big impression on his chemistry teacher. Philo credited Tolman with providing inspiration that he needed to continue pursuing his invention. Justin Tolman also proved to be a valuable friend at patent hearings in Philo’s long struggle with RCA. Philo helped create his next opportunity by taking physics courses by correspondence from the University of Utah, and then, with Justin Tolman’s help, enrolled at Brigham Young University. Although mostly self taught, Philo impressed two of his professors at B.Y.U. and they granted him access to use the chemistry and glass laboratories to pursue his invention. This is another example of an opportunity that Philo did not miss (Encyclopedia of World Biography, Thomas Gale, Edition 1, 1998).

Philo’s time at B.Y.U. was cut short by the death of his father in 1924. He went to Salt Lake City to support his family. Philo leaving college to take care of his family did not prove to be the end of his endeavor. While in Salt Lake City, he took a job as a canvasser for the community chest. It was at that time that he met two friends, George Everson, and Leslie Gorrell. He shared his ideas about electronic television with George and Leslie and they invested six thousand dollars into his venture. This led to further investment from a group of San Francisco bankers. Philo found that he could take advantage of another opportunity when his investors provided him with a lab, and one year to prove his concepts (U.S. News and World Report, Aug 17th 1998).

Philo married Elma Pem Gardner on May 27th, 1926. The very next day, Philo, and Pem moved to San Francisco. Pem became Philo’s assistant, and along with her brother Cliff, Philo was able to build all the components for the first electronic television. They built the vacuum transmitter tubes from glass, along with the image scanner, and receiver that would make up the first electronic television. The most important part of his invention was the image dissector camera. The camera scanned slowly in one direction, and quickly in the opposite direction. The image dissector camera made scanning much faster than previously possible. All televisions use this basic system of scanning. With three weeks left, Philo transmitted a two dimensional image by television for the first time (Postman, 1999).

Even today, the invention of television seems like a stunning achievement. We can only imagine the vast knowledge of chemistry, physics, and electronics that the inventor possessed, or his ability to bring these concepts together to create television. But as we look at the life of Philo Farnsworth, we can see an ability that is just as important, the ability to see, and create opportunity while working toward a goal.
Postman , N. (1999). Philo Farnsworth. TIME Magazine. Retrieved from
Encyclopedia of World Biography, Thomas Gale, Edition 1, 1998. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix Library.
U.S. News and World Report, August 17th 1998. Retrieved from The University of Phoenix Library.…...

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