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John Logie Baird

Born: 13-Aug-1888
Birthplace: Helensburgh, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland
Died: 14-Jun-1946
Location of death: Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, England
Cause of death: Stroke
Remains: Buried, Helensburgh Cemetery, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Gender: Male
Religion: Presbyterian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor

Nationality: Scotland
Executive summary: Television

John Logie Baird was one of half a dozen men properly credited with inventing television, and unlike his competitors his television was basically constructed as a hobby, without substantial underwriting until after he demonstrated that his principles worked. Using materials borrowed or bought from other radio enthusiasts or scavenged from other early electronic devices while he was unemployed, Baird's first "television" was more a mechanical than electronic device. There was no picture tube, and the machine was designed to produce an image by mechanically scanning spinning discs, with electronic amplification at both the transmitter and receiver. The disc was a cardboard circle cut from a hat box, an empty biscuit box housed the lamp, the lens was taken from a bicycle lamp, and it was literally held together with sealing wax. Using this, in 1924 Baird was able to broadcast a shadowy image across several feet at his home workshop.

His development of a photo-electric cell was the crucial breakthrough that allowed him to transmit more than merely shadows. On 26 January 1926 he gave the first public demonstration of moving pictures over his television system, showing recognizable human faces with an array of expressions, as a few dozen scientists watched at the Royal Institution. Funding was soon secured, and he established the Baird Television Development Company in 1927, and sent television images across more than 400 miles of wires between London and Glasgow. The following year he accomplished the first trans-Atlantic television transmission, reaching an amateur radio operator in Hartsdale, New York with a signal broadcast from London. His company provided the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)'s first TV program, aired on 30 September 1929. His system broadcast audio and visual components in an alternating pattern, but in 1930 he successfully sent both signals simultaneously.

By the early 1930s, however, competing systems of television were showing more success, and in a 1935 test against Vladimir Zworykin's system (backed by Guglielmo Marconi's Electric and Musical Industries) the BBC deemed Zworykin's system superior. As corporations like MCI and RCA became involved in the television industry, Baird's do-it-yourself technology was soon forgotten. He also conducted early but important work on the technology that evolved into radar and fiber optics, and he invented phonovision (a video recorded based on a mechanical scanner), noctovision (an infra-red based system for night vision), and the "Baird Undersock", a footwear shield that he promoted as guaranteeing dry feet even in wet weather.

Father: John Baird (Christian minister)
Mother: Jessie Morrison Inglis Baird
Brother: James Baird (b. 1879)
Sister: Annie Baird (hospital matron, b. 1883)
Sister: Jean Baird (b. 1885)
Wife: Margaret Albu Baird (pianist, m. 1931, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Diana Baird Richardson (b. Sep-1932)
Son: Malcolm Baird (chemist, b. 1935)

    High School: Larchfield Academy, Helensburgh, Scotland
    University: Electrical Engineering, Royal College of Science and Technology (1914)
    University: Electrical Engineering, University of Glasgow (attended)

    Institution of Engineering and Technology
    Royal Institution of Great Britain

Author of books:
Sermons, Soap and Television (1941)
Television and Me: The Memoirs of John Logie Baird (2004, memoir)


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