The life of any business manager would be so much more pleasant if one
of the classic American myths—that of the lone inventor—were true. But recent research shows that Thomas A. Edison didn’t do much by himself; Philo T. Farnsworth can only be credited as one of the inventors of television; and not even the Wright brothers deserve all the credit for the airplane.
As I’ve tried to say hundred — maybe a thousand — times, calling Farnsworth just "one of the inventors" of television completely misses the point.
Prior to Sept 27, 1927, the inventors of the day attempted to transmit moving images by means of electro-mechanical contrivances — video jalopies — that used spinning wheels and vibrating mirrors to deconstruct an image into its component parts of light and dark. Their work reflected the state of the art of the day — 19th century solutions to a 20th century problem. What was needed as a complete breakthrough.
Philo Farnsworth demonstrated that breakthrough when he conducted his first successful experiment with the Image Dissector (camera) and Oscillite (receiver) tubes in his San Francisco laboratory on 9/7/27. Farnsworth achieved the desired by means entirely electrical, by manipulating light and electrons in a way that nobody had done before that date, and in so doing paved the way for all the other inventors and engineers who made contributions after that date.
Farnsworth’s contribution was seminal, a point of demarcation that separated all that went before from all that followed. It was, as I’ve said before, "a breakthrough of epic proportions." And while it can be argued that achieving that breakthrough required the kind team work that Farnsworth himself cultivated in his own laboratory, the conception was entirely the product of his own fertile imagination.
To dismiss the role of the "lone inventor," as this article attempts to do, is to entirely ignore one of the fundamental characteristics of genius that has propelled technology and civilization.