[Originally published in Reader's Digest]
|Philo Farnsworth - 1906-1971|
Philo was 16 years old. He was very shy and didn't talk much to anyone. But one of his teachers, Justin Tolman, knew that there was something different about him.
"I had known hundreds of boys before I knew Philo", Tolman said many years later. "But Philo was different from all the others. I felt that I would never know another boy line him."
The shy boy who didn't talk much to anyone did talk with Tolman, his science teacher. "I want to learn all about science." Philo said.
He began to study science with the first-year class. After a few days, he appeared in the fourth-year class also. "I just want to sit and listen", he said.
Philo studied very hard. Soon he knew everything that the fourth-year class was learning. Then he read all the science books in the school library. He seemed to understand everything that he read.
One day after school, Tolman found Philo in the schoolroom working at the blackboard. Philo had covered the blackboard with drawings.
"What are you doing?" asked Tolman with interest. "What are these drawings about?"
"I want to invent things", Philo answered, "and these are the drawings of my first invention."
"And what is your invention?" Tolman asked, smiling a little.
"I have an idea for television − for a way of sending pictures through the air", the boy answered. "Please let me tell you about it. You are the only person who can understand what I have done."
In 1922, radio was very new. The United States had fewer than 30 radio stations. But in 1922 a boy of 16 showed his teacher drawings for television!
In the school library Philo had read the story of a man who had worked on an idea for television. But the man had not succeeded in sending pictures through the air. Philo was sure that his own idea was better and that he would succeed where the other man had failed.
Tolman was not so sure. He asked Philo many questions about the drawings. Philo could answer all his teacher's questions. He could give all the facts and figures.
Ad the end of that school year, the Farnsworth family left the little town of Rigby. Philo did not see his science teacher again for many years − not until the most important moment of the young inventor's life.
The big chance
In 1926, Philo worked as an office boy in Salt Lake City. Many important businessmen came into the office where he worked. One of these was George Everson, a businessman from San Francisco. Like Tolman, Everson soon became interested in Philo. The shy, hard-working boy was not like other office boys whom Everson had known.
One evening Everson asked Philo to have dinner with him. At dinner Philo began to talk about his idea for television. Everson was not much interested in the invention at first. He listened only because he wanted to be kind to the boy.
|Farnsworth's TV set|
Many years later Everson wrote a book about interesting people he had known. In the book, he told about that evening with Philo.
As Farnsworth talked, he seemed to change, Everson wrote. His eyes lighted up, and he was not shy at all. He talked freely about his invention and about what he wanted to do with it. As he talked, he became a different person. He was no longer an office boy − he was a man of science.
At the end of the evening, Everson was more interested than ever in Philo. He was also interested in Philo's idea for television.
A few days later, he took Philo to San Francisco. There Everson brought together a number of importan businessmen, and Philo told them about his invention. The men became so interested in the young inventor − and in his invention − that they gave $25,000 to help him work on his idea.
Philo was only 20 years old. But now he could stop working as an office boy. He could work on his idea for television. He would have the chance to try it out. And perhaps he would succeed in sending pictures through the air.
Letter to Washington
But first he must write a letter and send drawings of his invention to the United States Government in Washington, D. C. He must ask for a patent on the invention.
The person who first has the idea for a new intention and makes drawings of it is given a patent. Then no other person can own the same idea or sell it.
Only the United States Patent Office can say who is first with a new invention. and only the Patent Office can give an inventor the U. S. patent rights on an invention.
So Philo sent his drawings to Washington and wrote a letter asking for the patent rights on television.
[to be continued...]