JOHN LOGIE BAIRD: THE INVENTOR OF TELEVISION
"No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men." -Thomas Carlyle 1795-1881
Television, a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images was first demonstrated publicly by Scottish inventor John Logie Baird in 1925. Baird's scanning disk produced an image of 30 lines resolution, just enough to discern a human face, from a double spiral of lenses. Baird invented television. It wasn't the television that was taken up universally as the standard format for TV broadcasts throughout the 1940s and beyond. And that is why, even before television development of the 40s was little more than a fading memory, it became popular to dismiss Baird's contribution as "...nothing more than that of a romantic who was destined to nothing more than failure due to the fact that his mechanical system was replaced by electronic television." (from a 1952 biography of Baird subtitled "The Romance and Tragedy of the Pioneer of Television" by Sydney Moseley). But Baird did something that nobody had managed before. He transmitted a live moving picture from one location to another. That was what he invented and that was television.
In 1957 an attempt to convert the Baird family home in Scotland to a public museum of television was thwarted by some "experts" who said bluntly, "Baird did not invent television." In a book on television by Francis Wheen, the author seemingly went out of his way to discredit the pioneering work of Baird by quoting negative remarks and dismissing most of his groundbreaking work as feats of "one-upmanship", whilst disregarding any of Baird's recognised achievements. And even in 1991 in his book "Setmakers -A History of the Radio and Television Industry", author Keith Geddes stated, ..."apart from stimulating public interest in television it (Baird's low-definition television) contributed nothing to the high definition systems that succeeded it."
To dismiss Baird's contributions to the development of modern day television does a great disservice to one of the most brilliantly gifted inventors of our time. As you will read for yourself, Baird at times overcame insurmountable odds, ill health and poverty to achieve what many of his contemporaries regarded as the impossible. However, there was also another side to Baird that contradicts many of the so-called "established facts" about the man and his work. Even if only a small part of this other side of Baird's life story is to be believed, then the reader, by the end of this biography, should be in no doubt whatsoever that John Logie Baird's contribution to television, as well as modern day broadcasting technology has, for far too long, been seriously underrated.
Research for this biography includes excerpts from the first full biography of Baird, "Baird of Television" written by Ronald F. Tiltman, which was written with the cooperation of John Logie Baird himself (as well as some Baird family members) and featured contributions from many of the people who witnessed his experiments less than a decade before the book's publication in 1933. This book is no doubt the basis for many reference works on both the life of Baird and his work in the development of television. Another interesting source is a 1986 publication entitled "The Secret Life of John Logie Baird" by Tom McArthur and Peter Waddell. A detailed account of Baird's experiments into television and beyond. The book dispels many of the previously held myths surrounding Baird's work as well as disputing previously established "facts" about when, where and how Baird first realised his dream of creating "true" television. And by unearthing previously unknown details about the inventor and his secret work beyond the development of television, offers convincing evidence to support its claims.
It will also be seen that Baird didn't do himself any favours when it came to cementing his reputation and evidencing his own contributions. Much of his work was kept secret and dates were changed in order to hide the projects he was actually working on which has left inconsistencies in important dates and confusion with regards to certain "discoveries."
In the preface to his 1933 publication, Mr Tiltman wrote, "Baird was the first man in the world to achieve television, the first man to commercialise television. He placed British television in the van of world progress and, in my opinion, has maintained its pre-eminent position up till now. Who will deny this pioneer the status which is his by right of his accomplishments?"
Chapter One: A Son Of The Manse
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