West, A. G. D. Unknown - 1949


A. G. D West was a major figure in British communications from 1923, and his career bridged several areas of communication history: the military, the early BBC, the recording industry (His Master's Voice), and Baird Television Ltd, and Cinema Television Ltd.

Earning the rank of Captain as a wireless engineer in the Great War, West went on to work for the Cavendish Laboratory under Lord Rutherford. He left this prestigious role to join the fledging BBC in 1923 in only its second year of existence. There he was in charge of several historical broadcasts including the first broadcast of American radio in Britain, and the first outdoor broadcast ever made by the BBC, Beatrice Harrison playing cello with nightingales in her garden.

By 1931 he was working for HMV, making the crucial visit to American sister company RCA to see closed-door demonstrations of Vladimir Zworykin's revolutionary all-electronic television system, taking detailed notes. Upon his return to England, his employers immediately changed its direction from mechanical to electronic television, paving the way for the introduction of 405-line television in Britain by 1936.

When Isaac Shoenberg was appointed research engineer at HMV, West soon left and ended up working for their competition, Baird Television Ltd, as chief engineer. It was in fact West, not John Logie Baird, who was in charge of the Baird system when the BBC began its television service at Alexandra Palace in late 1936. When Baird Television Ltd lost the bid to provide television equipment to the BBC, the company increased its manufacturing of home television receivers. In collaboration with Gaumont-British, a subsidary company was formed, Cinema Television, which began to equip large theatres and cinemas for television.

During WWII, when all television was shut down, West was the head engineer in charge of Cinema Television's contribution to the war effort, including mine detectors, proximity fuses, and radar scopes, and continued with the conversion back to peacetime manufacturing after the war.

West died suddenly in 1949 in a mountain climbing accident in Switzerland.