Isaac Shoenberg 1880 - 1963

born in:
Pinsk, Belarus

Sir Isaac Shoenberg headed the EMI research team that developed the first fully electronic television system for regular broadcasting. The 405-line Marconi-EMI system was introduced in 1936 during experiments for the BBC Television Service. It was formally adopted as the technical standard in 1937. In 1964 it was superseded by the 625-line standard, however transmissions to remaining 405-line receivers continued until 1985.

Isaac Shoenberg was born to a Jewish family in Pinsk, Imperial Russia (now Belarus). He performed well at school and received a school commendation. He attended Kiev Polytechnic Insititute to study mathematics and engineering, despite the numerus clausus restricting the number of Jewish students.

After graduating, Shoenberg joined the Russian Wireless and Telegraph Company in St Petersburg, installing Russia’s first radio stations.

Schoenberg had met his wife Esther at a political rally whilst both studied in Kiev. They had two sons, Alec and David, before moving the family to London in 1914 for Isaac to study for a doctoral degree at Imperial College.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, Shoenberg had to abandon his studies. He joined the Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Company, rising through the ranks to head of patents and later general manager. He became a naturalised British citizen in 1919.

In 1928 Shoenberg moved to the Columbia Gramophone Company as General Manager. The company merged with the Gramophone Company in 1931 to form EMI, Shoenberg became the Director of Research at the EMI Research Laboratories in Hayes.

Shoenberg compiled an exceptional team of engineers who made landmark technical developments, including binaural sound and electrical television. He was responsible for securing £100,000 investment that enabled the successful development of the Emitron camera. The system won the competition for the format of television adopted by the BBC against the Baird Company Ltd.

Shoenberg was awarded the Faraday medal for his work in 1954 and became a Director at EMI in 1955. He was awarded a knighthood in 1962. Sir Isaac Shoenberg died the following year.