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4 Jun, 2009 05:43

The father of the modern TV was dispirited by his creation

The inventor of early television Vladimir Zworykin believed in the humanitarian potential of TV and was disappointed by the millions interested in soap operas.

Still, he continued his research and came up with more bright ideas such as the electronic microscope.

Today there are 1.5 billion TV sets around the world. On average, each person is glued to the box for 4 hours a day.

The man who created all-electronic television

“He was a technological optimist. You think imagination, invention, creativity, and joy at the possibilities of technology, and what people who are trained in engineering and science can do to help humanity,” says Alexander Magoun, PhD, executive director and curator of the David Sarnoff library.

Born in Russia in 1889, Zworykin was part of a large and wealthy family. At the Institute of Technology in St. Petersburg his professors immediately recognized his potential, but WWI and the revolution were roadblocks for creativity.

In America, he finally met the right investor at the right time – David Sarnoff, head of RCA.

With his financial backing, Zworykin patented the iconoscope: a camera tube that introduced electronic television to the world.

But what Vladimir Zworykin believed to be a tool that could spread knowledge, began with TV commercials.

“He’s thinking: ‘Look, you can use this to inform yourselves, to elevate yourself, to transmit medical information and to transmit politics, and what are you doing? You’re sitting in your living rooms watching soap operas!’” comments Alexander Magoun.

Zworykin rarely watched TV himself, but instead kept working, never looking back.

Although the man behind the TV was eventually forced to retire, he did not stop there. Thanks to pressure from family, and the will to keep creating, he eventually set his sights on combining medicine with technology and created the electronic microscope.
Today, viruses such as HIV or swine flu can be identified, and lives can be saved, thanks to Zworykin’s vision.

The great inventor continued working at the RCA laboratories until the days before his death, always interested in what the next generation would bring.

As Vladimir Zworykin himself put it, “Everything which is invented, some will use for good, some for bad. And it is better to create new things than to stop creating, so that they will not be used for bad.”