Obit: Elma Gardner Farnsworth, 98, wife of Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television

We all owe a great debt to Philo T. Farnsworth. He’s known to many, but not most, as the true inventor of what became television. Married in 1926, Elma was at the side of Philo when he first tested the invention he had conceived seven years earlier while going back and forth plowing a field on a tractor at the age of 14. Farnsworth wondered if an image could be scanned onto a screen in a similar fashion.

Though he patented his invention, RCA took it uncredited and claimed the invention as one of theirs. Years later after drawn-out court cases Farnsworth eventually got the credit due him. Though by then the RCA myth had taken hold and his contribution went largely unrecognized. Philo T. Farnsworth died in 1971 but Elma continued to fight the good fight to ensure that his name not wind up in history’s dustbin.

PBS produced an excellent profile of the inventor as part of its American Experience series, Big Dream, Small Screen (VHS 4472). Stop by Media Services and check it out.

Posted in Obituaries, Television.