Elma Farnsworth


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her seven-hour Archive interview, Elma Farnsworth (1908-2006) discusses her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's first television invention - the Image Dissector Tube - and the excitement of seeing its first moving image. She describes how Philo toiled to create the first electronic television, while RCA and Vladimir Zworykin worked on a similar invention, both trying to finish before the other. Farnsworth also talks about the heated competition and the ensuing patent fights between Philo and General David Sarnoff, then President of RCA. She talks about Philo's colleagues, laboratories, and companies, and speaks of the couple's home life, as well. Jeff Kisseloff conducted the interview on June 25, 1996 in Salt Lake City, UT.

Highlights
Elma Farnsworth on the reaction of her and her husband, inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (and colleagues Cliff Gardner and Carl Christensen), on September 7, 1927 when he produced the first all-electronic TV picture (a simple straight line) with his Image Dissector tube
04:54
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's battle with RCA for electronic television's patents, declaring that Farnsworth was the initial inventor of electronic television
06:10
Elma Farnsworth on RCA licensing Philo T. Farnsworth's patents in 1939 - the first time RCA ever licensed a patent 
08:35
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's appearance on I've Got a Secret
02:07
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's phone call with Albert Einstein
02:05
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On the story of the birth of her husband, Philo T. Farnsworth; on Philo's childhood, hobbies and talents; on her childhood 
15:11
On Philo's family moving to Rigby, Idaho when he was a youngster; on Philo seeing electricity for the first time
03:54
On Philo reading Invention magazine as a child and first learning about mechanical television
07:31

Chapter 2

On Philo entering a contest in a magazine; on Philo's idea for electronic television and studying math and chemistry in school
17:49
On how she met Philo; on Philo's time in the Navy
11:32

Chapter 3

On getting engaged to Philo; on Philo telling her his idea for electronic television
13:22
On Salt Lake City's Community Chest; on Philo hiring George Everson, Les Gorrell, and Cliff Gardner; on getting married
09:24
On becoming Philo's assistant; on moving to Los Angeles to set up a laboratory
04:09

Chapter 4

On police mistaking Philo's lab for a home distillery; on moving to San Francisco and Philo patenting television in 1927; on securing funding for experimental television
17:19
On setting up their lab on Green Street; on Philo enlisting a professor at UC Berkeley to assist in glass-blowing; on her role in the laboratory
08:49

Chapter 5

On the race to invent electronic television; on the drawbacks to mechanical disc television and the obstacles Philo encountered when creating electronic television
09:51
On the reaction of her and her husband, inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (and colleagues Cliff Gardner and Carl Christensen), on September 7, 1927 when he produced the first all-electronic TV picture (a simple straight line) with his Image Dissector tube; on perfecting the tube
07:16
On some of the first televised images - film strips; on a visit to her husband electronic TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth's lab from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and producer Joseph Schenck so they could see television
03:07
On the press conference announcing electronic television and Philo being pursued by RCA; on famous visitors to Philo T. Farnsworth's lab, including Vladimir Zworykin
08:41

Chapter 6

On the press conference announcing Philo's invention, contd.; on Philco licensing Farnsworth's television for an experimental television station; on Philo leaving Philco and setting up the Eastern Division of Television, Inc.
17:26
On Vladimir Zworykin at RCA copying Philo T. Farnsworth's image dissector for RCA's electronic television system; on public demonstrations of television 
08:22

Chapter 7

On how young Philo conducted his research when he was a child living on a farm; on how her husband Philo T. Farnsworth used to solved problems while he slept
07:33
On RCA's David Sarnoff's attempts to buy Philo T. Farnsworth's patent for television; on Philo's experimental television station W3XPF and the man who ran it, Bill Eddy
11:24
On makeup and talent they featured on experimental television; on problems with intense lighting and lobbying for a commercial television license
06:30

Chapter 8

On Philo's battle with RCA for electronic television's patents; on Philo's input on commercial broadcast standards for the United States
19:38
On the creation of the Farnsworth Radio and Television Corporation and their workings with John Logie Baird, creator of the mechanical spinning disc television system
08:13

Chapter 9

On the formation of the Farnsworth Television and Radio Company; on Philo's poor health circa 1940 and the 1939-40 World's Fair
14:28
On the expiration of Philo T. Farnsworth's original television patents and the beginning of manufacturing television sets; on the International Telephone and Telegraph Company purchasing the company
14:26

Chapter 10

On several of her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's inventions - baby incubator, electron microscope, satellite technology; on Philo's camera tube being a part of the Apollo mission to the moon in 1969, and his work in fusion and hydroponics
11:51
On Philo being asked to work on The Manhattan Project and his phone call with Albert Einstein; on Philo's work on fusion
08:06
On Philo's dwindling health
07:37

Chapter 11

On her husband Philo's work on fusion at the end of his life
07:11
On Philo's appearance on I've Got a Secret
02:07
On Philo's thoughts on commercial television towards the end of his life; on why history has largely forgotten Philo T. Farnsworth's name; on Philo's amazing achievements
20:18

Chapter 12

On her husband Philo's achievements at such a young age; on his personality
08:22
On Philo's colleagues and family members
10:03
B-roll photos from her life with husband Philo T. Farnsworth
09:33
Shows

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

View Show Page
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's colleagues, and Harry Lubcke naming the Emmy Awards after the image orthicon tube
01:43

I've Got a Secret

View Show Page
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's appearance on I've Got a Secret
03:18
Topics

Emmy Awards

View Topic
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's colleagues, and Harry Lubcke naming the Emmy Awards after the image orthicon tube
01:43

Moon Landing

View Topic
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's camera tube being a part of the Apollo mission to the moon in 1969
01:04

Technological Innovation

View Topic
Elma Farnsworth on Philo's idea for electronic television
01:46
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo patenting television in 1927
05:35
Elma Farnsworth on the reaction of her and her husband, inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (and colleagues Cliff Gardner and Carl Christensen), on September 7, 1927 when he produced the first all-electronic TV picture (a simple straight line) with his Image Dissector tube
04:54
Elma Farnsworth on the drawbacks to mechanical disc television and the obstacles Philo encountered when creating electronic television
01:43
Elma Farnsworth on Vladimir Zworykin at RCA copying Philo T. Farnsworth's image dissector for RCA's electronic television system
00:52
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth lobbying for a commercial television license
01:23
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's battle with RCA for electronic television's patents
06:10
Elma Farnsworth on RCA licensing Philo T. Farnsworth's patents in 1939 - the first time RCA ever licensed a patent 
08:35
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's input on commercial broadcast standards for the United States
01:13
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's camera tube being a part of the Apollo mission to the moon in 1969
01:04
Professions

Inventor

View Profession
Elma Farnsworth on the reaction of her and her husband, inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (and colleagues Cliff Gardner and Carl Christensen), on September 7, 1927 when he produced the first all-electronic TV picture (a simple straight line) with his Image Dissector tube
04:54
Elma Farnsworth on the drawbacks to mechanical disc television and the obstacles Philo encountered when creating electronic television
01:43

Technology Innovators

View Profession
Elma Farnsworth on the drawbacks to mechanical disc television and the obstacles Philo encountered when creating electronic television
01:43
Elma Farnsworth on the reaction of her and her husband, inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (and colleagues Cliff Gardner and Carl Christensen), on September 7, 1927 when he produced the first all-electronic TV picture (a simple straight line) with his Image Dissector tube
04:54
People

Albert Einstein

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's phone call with Albert Einstein and Einstein's advice to him
02:28
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's phone call with Albert Einstein
04:58

George Everson

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth hiring George Everson, Les Gorrell, and Cliff Gardner 
10:08
Elma Farnsworth on George Everson raising funds for Philo T. Farnsworth's experimental television 
08:58
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth and George Everson raising funds to work on inventing television and forming the company, Television, Inc.
01:50
Elma Farnsworth on the creation of the Farnsworth Radio and Television Corporation and their workings with John Logie Baird, creator of the mechanical spinning disc television system
08:13

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on a visit to her husband electronic TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth's lab from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and producer Joseph Schenck so they could see television (and surmise its threat to the movie industry) circa early-1930s
02:11

Philo T. Farnsworth

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on the story of the birth of her husband, Philo T. Farnsworth
02:35
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's talents 
01:04
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's photographic memory
02:23
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's phone call with Albert Einstein
02:28
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo entering a contest in a magazine
02:11
Elma Farnsworth on Philo's idea for electronic television
01:46
Elma Farnsworth on getting engaged to Philo T. Farnsworth
05:24
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth telling her his idea for electronic television
07:58
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth hiring George Everson, Les Gorrell, and Cliff Gardner; on getting married
10:35
Elma Farnsworth on moving to Los Angeles with Philo T. Farnsworth to set up a laboratory
02:58
Elma Farnsworth on police mistaking her husband Philo's lab for a home distillery
02:46
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo patenting television in 1927
05:35
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo getting funding, and setting up materials and personnel for inventing television; on her role with the creation of television
08:49
Elma Farnsworth on the reaction of her and her husband, inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (and colleagues Cliff Gardner and Carl Christensen), on September 7, 1927 when he produced the first all-electronic TV picture (a simple straight line) with his Image Dissector tube
04:54
Elma Farnsworth on a visit to her husband electronic TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth's lab from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and producer Joseph Schenck so they could see television (and surmise its threat to the movie industry) circa early-1930s
01:44
Elma Farnsworth on the drawbacks to mechanical disc television and the obstacles Philo encountered when creating electronic television
01:43
Elma Farnsworth on famous visitors to Philo T. Farnsworth's lab, including Vladimir Zworykin
03:25
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth raising funds to work on inventing television and forming his company, Television, Inc.
05:13
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth's dollar sign demonstration of television for his financial backers
01:05
Elma Farnsworth on public demonstrations of television to interest people in licensing Philo T. Farnsworth's patents; on Philco licensing Farnsworth's television for an experimental television station and Phil leaving the company
06:13
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth starting the Eastern division of Television, Inc., the patents the company held, and Philo's aspirations for television
04:55
Elma Farnsworth on Philo T. Farnsworth demonstrating television at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia - the first public demonstration of television in 1934
07:30
Elma Farnsworth on how young Philo balanced conducting research and doing chores while growing up on a farm
05:23
Elma Farnsworth on how her husband Philo T. Farnsworth used to solved problems while he slept
01:22
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth putting her image on television
00:48
Elma Farnsworth on RCA's David Sarnoff's attempts to buy Philo T. Farnsworth's patent for television
03:49
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth lobbying for a commercial television license
01:23
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's battle with RCA for electronic television's patents
06:10
Elma Farnsworth on RCA licensing Philo T. Farnsworth's patents in 1939 - the first time RCA ever licensed a patent 
08:35
Elma Farnsworth on the creation of the Farnsworth Radio and Television Corporation and their workings with John Logie Baird, creator of the mechanical spinning disc television system
08:13
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's difficulties with disloyal personnel and the formation of the Farnsworth Television and Radio Company
04:57
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's poor health circa 1940
05:33
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth avoiding the television demonstration at the 1939 World's Fair
01:25
Elma Farnsworth on the expiration of Philo T. Farnsworth's original television patents and the beginning of manufacturing television sets
09:49
Elma Farnsworth on the International Telephone and Telegraph Company purchasing Farnsworth Television and Radio Company and Philo T. Farnsworth working on satellites and space exploration
01:59
Elma Farnsworth on several of her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's inventions, including the baby incubator
02:40
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's camera tube being a part of the Apollo mission to the moon in 1969
01:04
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's fusion and hydroponic work, and his love of science fiction
07:04
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth being asked to work on The Manhattan Project
01:33
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's phone call with Albert Einstein
04:58
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's work on fusion at the end of his life
06:00
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's appearance on I've Got a Secret  (the same night Buster Keaton was on the program)
03:18
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's thoughts on commercial television towards the end of his life
00:49
Elma Farnsworth on why history has largely forgotten her husband, Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of electronic television
03:08
Elma Farnsworth on what she thinks her husband Philo T. Farnsworth might have changed if he had the chance to do so; on whether or not an underdog can win in the American system
03:33
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's determination and spirit
01:02
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's achievements with electronic television
06:16
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's achievements at such a young age
02:08
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's personality and strengths
06:14
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's colleagues
01:43
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's colleagues and people he looked up to in the field; on demonstrating electronic television for John Logie Baird (inventor of mechanical television)
05:33
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's family members and their contributions to his work
02:47
Elma Farnsworth on a photo of a statue of her husband Philo T. Farnsworth holding an image dissector tube
00:59
Elma Farnsworth on a photo of her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's television demonstration at the Franklin Institute
01:28

Buster Keaton

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's appearance on I've Got a Secret  (the same night Buster Keaton was on the program)
00:57

Harry Lubcke

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's colleagues, and Harry Lubcke naming the Emmy Awards after the image orthicon tube
01:43

Garry Moore

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's appearance on I've Got a Secret  (the same night Buster Keaton was on the program)
03:18

Mary Pickford

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on a visit to her husband electronic TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth's lab from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and producer Joseph Schenck so they could see television (and surmise its threat to the movie industry) circa early-1930s
02:11
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth giving Mary Pickford a demonstration of his television system
02:04

Don Pike

View Interview Page
Elma Farnsworth on a photo of Don Pike using an early Farnsworth television camera
01:14

David Sarnoff

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on RCA's David Sarnoff's attempts to buy Philo T. Farnsworth's patent for television
03:49
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's battle with RCA for electronic television's patents
06:10
Elma Farnsworth on RCA licensing Philo T. Farnsworth's patents in 1939 - the first time RCA ever licensed a patent 
08:35

Joseph Schenck

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on a visit to her husband electronic TV inventor Philo T. Farnsworth's lab from Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and producer Joseph Schenck so they could see television (and surmise its threat to the movie industry) circa early-1930s
01:44

Vladimir Zworykin

View Person Page
Elma Farnsworth on famous visitors to Philo T. Farnsworth's lab, including Vladimir Zworykin
03:25
Elma Farnsworth on Vladimir Zworykin at RCA copying Philo T. Farnsworth's image dissector for RCA's electronic television system
00:52
Elma Farnsworth on her husband Philo T. Farnsworth's battle with RCA for electronic television's patents
06:10

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