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Kenneth Ellman Reviews The Last Lone Inventor by Schwartz

Kenneth Ellman, reviews `The Last Lone Inventor” by Evan Schwartz.
Email:, Newton, New Jersey 07860. October 5, 2013.
Sometimes in life you witness or hear about extraordinary acts and circumstances of injustice. Usually these occur in matters of unlawful conviction or penal prosecution. They can also occur in matters of civil law or just in life itself. Perhaps we should think of them simply as Miscarriages of Justice. One theme that frequently runs in all such matters is that no one with power to alter the outcome at the time it occurred stepped forward to correct this travesty. Another name for this is “Cases and Stories We Can Cry About” (title of book by Kenneth Ellman). What happened to Philo T. Farnsworth and the lack of public outrage again tells much about who we are. So this book by Schwartz describes in part the life of Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of “electronic television” or simply television.

Farnsworth accomplished and understood much more than what someone might think of as “Television”. He understood the physics of light and electromagnetism, the ability to transmit information without wires over distance and visualize the information upon electronic receipt. To the people who experienced for the first time the invention of Farnsworth it was something they never forgot. Farnsworth, a California farm boy, was able to grasp the knowledge of Physics and change the world. Farnsworth did all this with no college education. He was to a large extent self-taught.

This book details Farnsworth’s life as combination of wonderful opportunities and experiences such as having a family supportive of his craving for scientific experimentation, Albert Einstein taking an interest in this work, technical colleagues who dedicated themselves to his projects and business investors who sought to have his inventions become reality. At the same time this was coupled with tragedy and the viciousness of our culture ranging from his being unjustly and corruptly attacked with legal process by a damaging David Sarnoff of RCA, to having his house and laboratory burn down from a raging forest fire, just days before his fire insurance was to be issued.

RCA and Sarnoff eventually lost their attempt to claim the scientific work and inventions of Farnsworth being repudiated in a ruling by the United States Patent Office. As stated by Schwartz:” At age twenty-nine, Philo T. Farnsworth was held to be the undisputed inventor of television…”

However the course of history now intervened and as stated by Schwartz: “Just seven months after the FCC approved commercial television, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Soon after the U.S. Government officially banned the production of consumer electronics altogether.”

The mind of Farnsworth created new knowledge and science, he won this Patent victory against RCA and Sarnoff, then World War Two occurred and his extraordinary invention, Television, could not be manufactured. In 1947 his most valuable patents, those for his television camera and television receiver ended. It is fully understandable how some men might be driven to disaster.

Farnsworth lived to see his invention, Television, abused and misused. Along with Edward R. Morrow, Farnsworth deeply regretted the use to which his invention had been put.

The book discusses other scientific luminaries such as Edwin Armstrong the creator of FM radio and Vladimir Zworykin, another television pioneer. Significant discussion and details are brought out about RCA and its long time President David Sarnoff. It is hard to separate Sarnoff from RCA and the book does an excellent job of portraying that and the great influence that RCA had in years past. It also portrays a part of that always present human behavior that allows men to aggressively denigrate and debase the accomplishments and well being of others.

The story of Philo T. Farnsworth is our story and should not be forgotten. This is a book worth reading as a technological, business and social history of that recent past. It is easy, very easy to forget all of this. Kenneth Ellman,, 18, Newton,N.J. 07860