Born on August 19, 1906: Philo Farnsworth.
A household name? Maybe not.
But if you have a TV in your house, you are using something Farnsworth envisioned as a high school student and spent many years developing. Farnsworth is often referred to as the "inventor" of TV, and his story is fascinating and exciting in terms of what's possible when a young scientist or engineer takes what is available and imagines what may be possible. Farnsworth's early fascination with electricity and his spirit of "what if" is what brought moving images to the screen, but his ideas got their genesis in something much more basic... the lines created when plowing a field.
A biography of Farnsworth posted on the Brigham Young High School website summarizes his vision at age 14 this way: "he dreamed of using a lens to direct light into a glass camera tube, where it could be analyzed in a magnetically deflected beam of electrons, dissected and transmitted one line at a time in a continuous stream." By the age of 21, Farnsworth demonstrated this method of transmission, with a single line, thus creating the first television transmission.
What will you and your students invent, test, question, or discover this year?
Farnsworth's story is one that puts the Engineering Design Process in action. Students with an interest in electronics, engineering, tinkering, and the DIY mentality of inventing, or students who see a problem and have ideas on how something could be developed to solve that problem, can learn more about the steps of the engineering process in the Science Buddies Engineering Design Process guide.
The following books and reference materials may help you learn more about Farnsworth and the development and historical timeline of TV:
- The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth (Book)
- The Teen Who Invented Television: Philo T. Farnsworth and His Awesome Invention (Genius at Work! Great Inventor Biographies) (Book)
- Philo Taylor Farnsworth (Brigham Young High School)
- MIT's Inventor of the Week Archive
- Philo Farnsworth (the Wikipedia entry may serve as a launch point for further research)