John Logie Baird 1888 - 1946

Television pioneer
Scottish; British
born in:
Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, United Kingdom

Known as ‘The Father of Television', John Logie Baird showed an early interest in engineering. He set up a telephone exchange in his bedroom to connect with his friends across the street. He was educated at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College, however, the First World War interrupted his course and he never graduated. In 1915 Baird took a job at the Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company.

After a period as an inventor he had a modest success with a new type of thermal, water-absorbent sock, before moving to Trinidad in November 1919 and setting up a jam making business. The venture was not successful, so Baird returned to Britain in September 1920. After moving to Hastings, he began to experiment with broadcasting images. Using odds and ends, including a hat box, tea chest, bicycle light lenses, darning needles, and scissors, he built his first apparatus. In 1924 Baird broadcast a silhouette of a Maltese cross ten feet, proving his system worked. Later the same year he survived a 1000 volt electric shock, so he was asked to leave by his landlord.

Baird decided to move to London to publicise his invention, and had a display in Selfridges department store in March 1925. It was in October 1925 that Baird achieved images with light and shade (half-tones) that improved clarity. He used the puppet head of ‘Stooky Bill’ for these experiments. These were repeated for members of the Royal Institution on 26 January 1926.

In 1927 Baird sent a television signal 438 miles, between London and Glasgow, using telephone wires. Later in 1928 he sent images from London to New York using a short-wave radio signal. His television company, Baird Television Development Company Ltd., made the first tv programmes broadcast on the BBC as part of their experimental broadcasts, and the first outside broadcast, of the 1931 Derby. They also produced the first commercial television sets, the ‘televisor’ in 1930.

Early BBC television broadcasts used both the Baird and the electronic Marconi-EMI system, to test which one was better. By 1937, the Baird mechanical system had been dropped and television would use the more reliable Marconi-EMI system.

During the 1940s Baird worked on developing high-definition colour television and 3D television, before his death in 1946.