Yet you probably never
heard of her until now.
You probably never heard of her husband, either. Philo Farnsworth
was a world-class inventor who is in the Inventors Hall of Fame,
which is located in Akron, Ohio.
Philo was born in a log cabin in Beaver, Utah, in 1906. He and
Elma met in high school, and they were married soon after that, in
1926. They had four children; one of them, Kenny, died of strep
throat as a 13-month-old baby. This inspired Philo to design the
world's first baby incubator, which he did along with Dr. Charles
Chappell. The device was called an isolette.
Philo Farnsworth also developed radar systems, the electron
microscope and satellite-tracking pictures, which were first used in
But his contributions don't end there. He also invented the
camera tube that filmed the Apollo 13 moon landing in 1969. It was
his camera, called an image dissector, that sent the shots back to
Earth from the moon. He didn't invent his image dissector
specifically for the Apollo moon landing, though. No, he invented it
for his first major invention -- one that nearly everyone has in
their homes today.
He had many battles with a much larger company over this
invention. While he won both the race to invent it and the ensuing
court battle to keep it, it was the larger company that
[to top of second column]
As a result, he never received much credit for it. After Philo
died in 1971, Elma devoted most of the rest of her life to helping
her late husband receive the credit that he never received while he
Earlier I mentioned that Elma became the first woman to appear on
television. She may have had an unfair advantage over other women to
be the first, because it was her husband who invented
The much larger company that he had legal battles with was RCA.
But he beat them to it and, as a result, he became the first person
to receive a royalty from RCA, as RCA never paid a royalty to
anyone until he came along. Royalties totaled $1 million for the
use of his patents.
If Elma Farnsworth was known as the "Mother of Television," then
Philo Farnsworth should be known as the "Father of Television."
There's one other thing that you probably didn't know about the
inventor of television. He first conceived of how television should
work when he was only 14 years old!
Paul Niemann may be reached at email@example.com. You can learn
more about Invention Mysteries by visiting the official
Invention Mysteries website.
Copyright Paul Niemann 2006