Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Farnsworth was born in Indian Springs , Utah on August 19, 1906. His family were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His father later moved the family to Rigby, Idaho, where he worked as a sharecropper. Young Philo developed an early interest in electronics after his first telephone conversation with an out-of-state relative and the discovery of a large cache of technology magazines in the attic of the family's new home.
After a brief stint in the Navy, Farnsworth returned to Idaho to help support his mother. He later moved to the San Francisco Bay area with his bride, Elma G. "Penn" Farnsworth. A local philanthropist managing a community chest agreed to fund Farnsworth's early television experiments (see below).
Farnsworth developed the vacuum tube television display, an idea he conceived at age 14 and developed at age 21. During a patent lawsuit against RCA his high school teacher redrew a drawing Farnsworth had made on the blackboard when he was 14. Farnsworth won the suit and was paid royalties but never became wealthy. The cathode ray tube configuration developed from Farnsworth's work was used in all television sets and other kinds of displays until the late 20th century when a small portion of televisions were made with alternate technologies such as liquid crystal displays.
The Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor, or simply fusor, is an apparatus designed by Farnsworth to create nuclear fusion. Unlike most controlled fusion systems, which slowly heat a magnetically confined plasma, the fusor injects "high temperature" ions directly into a reaction chamber, thereby avoiding a considerable amount of complexity.
When Farnsworth-Hirsch Fusor was first introduced to the fusion research world in the late 1960s, the Fusor was the first device that could clearly demonstrate it was producing any fusion reactions at all. Hopes of the time were high that it could be quickly developed into a practical power source. However, as with other fusion experiments, development into a power source has proven difficult. Nevertheless the fusor has since become a practical neutron source, and is produced commercially for this role.
It is said that Farnsworth's genius was on the wane towards the end of his life due to alcoholism. A plaque honoring Farnsworth as The Genius of Green Street is located on the 202 Green Street location of his research laboratory in San Francisco.
- P.T. Farnsworth, Patent US3258402, June, 1966 (Electric discharge -- Nuclear interaction)
- P.T. Farnsworth, Patent US3386883. June, 1968 (Method and apparatus)
- P.T. Farnsworth, Patent US3664920. (Electrostatic containment)
- "There's nothing on it worthwhile, and we're not going to watch it in this household, and I don't want it in your intellectual diet." - Philo T. Farnsworth to his son Kent, regarding television
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