Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The Mother of Television Has Died

Elma Gardner "Pem" Farnsworth died at the Avalon Care Centre in Bountiful, Utah this past Thursday. She was 98 years old. Farnsworth was the wife of Philo T. Farnsworth, who at the age of 21 invented television. Farnsworth worked alongside her husband in the lab and he always gave her equal credit in the invention of TV. Among other things, she made the technical drawings for his experiements. In fact, she may have been the first person whose image was transmitted on television. Following his death in 1971 she fought to insure that he was remembered as the man who invented television.

She was born in Vernal, Utah on February 28, 1908. Her family would eventually move to Provo, Utah. It was there that she would meet Phil T. Farnsworth. They would eventually have four sons.

Farnsworth was in their lab in San Francisco on September 7, 1927 when her husband made the first television transmission. He transmitted the image of a line to a TV reciever in another room. The screen was very small, only the size of a postage stamp. Regardless, it was the first electric television transmission. A few other inventors had worked on mechanical television prior to Farnsworth, but it would be Farnsworth's work that would lead to television as we know it today.

Sadly, Farnsworth very nearly did not receive credit for his work. RCA claimed that television had been invented by its chief television engineer, Vladimir Zworykin. In 1935 a court upheld Farnsworth's patent, making it clear he was the man who invented television. In 1939 Farnsworth would license his patents to RCA.

Farnsworth also wrote her autobiography, Distant Vision: Romance and Discovery on the Invisible Frontier, in 1990.

Farnsworth is survived by a sister, two sons, 13 grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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