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TV Pioneer Raised In Idaho

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By Jay Michaels

Rigby, Idaho (KMVT-TV) These days we take watching television for granted. But the idea for all-electronic TV was born right here in the Gem State.

Rigby, Idaho, population 4,000, boasts that it's "The Birthplace of Television." That's because Philo T. Farnsworth went to school here. But the young farm boy was very intellectually advanced compared to his classmates.

Glena Smith, curator of the Jefferson County Museum, says, "They just did the best they could with him. And then his brother started college, so he was fine with that, because he could read his brother's college books."

Smith says in 1920 when Farnsworth was 13 years old, he was on the farm when they were marking a potato field, making the rows before they planted the seed. Farnsworth asked himself if sound waves travel in straight lines, why can't pictures? Two years later he drew a diagram of what he called an "image dissector," which we've come to know as a cathode ray picture tube.

Smith says, "He took it to the science teacher at the school. And he told Philo that it would work. But then he never did anything more with that particular thing for a long time."

Farnsworth attended college in Utah, and then moved to San Francisco, California and built a laboratory there. This cathode ray tube is among the Farnsworth televisions and radios on display in a room set aside for them in the Radio and TV Museum in Rigby. You can also see Farnsworth's hat, glasses, and the front step from the house he lived in, along with a well-worn copy of the book about Farnsworth's life called "The Story of Television."

Smith says, "He went into other things, invented the incubator for babies, and Ediphone, a precursor to the Dictaphone, he invented that. He had over 300 patents."

Smith says Farnsworth also invented the rudiments of the 'Distant Early Warning' system used during the cold war, and donated that to the US Army.

The Jefferson County Historical Society's Farnsworth TV and Pioneer Museum in Rigby is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is only two dollars a person.

Nov. 14, 2012.


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