John Logie Baird

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John Logie Baird 

The man who invented the television 

John Logie Baird FRSE (1888 – 1946) was a Scottish inventor, electrical engineer, and innovator who demonstrated his working television system on 26 January 1926. He went on to invent the first publicly demonstrated color television system, and the first viable purely electronic color television picture tube. In 1928 the Baird Television Development Company achieved the first transatlantic television transmission. Baird’s early technological successes and his role in the practical introduction of broadcast television for home entertainment have earned him a prominent place in television’s history.

John Logie Baird 

The man who invented the television 

I had an illness when I was a child and I had to live a quiet life. Technology became my hobby. We could send voice messages. Could I invent a system for sending pictures? I decided to try to do it. 


I had a serious illness when I was two years old and I couldn’t do sport. I began to play with technical things. I had a friend who lived across the road and I built a phone that connected his home with mine. We sent messages to each other and had great fun. I was 12 years old at the time. 

At school, I wasn’t a very good student. ‘He doesn’t learn very quickly,’ my teacher told my mother. But I worked hard and finished school. Then I entered university to study electrical engineering, but I couldn’t finish my studies because the First World War started. 

My health was poor, so I didn’t fight during the war. I worked as an engineer at Clyde Valley Electricity in Glasgow. My job was to repair the machines there. But I wasn’t interested in repairing things. I was interested in making them. I enjoyed doing experiments. One day, one of my experiments went wrong and the lights went out in some parts of Glasgow. I lost my job! 


I decided to try a new place and a new way of life. In 1919, I travelled to the island of Trinidad in the West Indies. Life was quiet on the island. The weather was so sunny that I felt much better there. I started new experiments with sounds and pictures. My neighbours heard strange noises in my house. They also saw lights that turned on and off ‘He’s doing some kind of magic,’ they thought. The local people were afraid of me. After a year on the island, I decided that Trinidad wasn’t the best place for my experiments and I sailed back to England. 

I asked myself, ‘We have cameras to take pictures. We have radios to send messages. Is it also possible to send pictures?’ I wanted to invent a system for sending images from one place to another and I started to work on my system. My first invention was a basic machine. I did more experiments and on 2nd October 1925, I showed my television in Selfridges, a large store in London. It was the first public presentation of my experiment. In 1927, I started a company – Baird Television Limited. I also got a patent for my invention and sent television images over 438 miles. It was a very exciting time. 


I borrowed some money and did more experiments. My television became better each day. In 1930, people could watch the first play on television. The next year, they could watch a horse race – the Derby. I did many things in a short period of time. But I also had a big debt. My company sold 10,000 televisions in the UK, but I needed to sell more televisions. I wanted to pay off my debt. 

In 1931, I received an invitation to visit the USA. I sailed there with my girlfriend – and future wife – Margaret Albu. I knew that I could sell a lot of televisions in the USA but there was a depression at the time. In the UK, the situation wasn’t any better. In 1936, the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) didn’t choose my system to send television programmes. Then the Second World War started in 1939. It was a very difficult time for my company. 

During the war, London wasn’t a safe place to live so I moved my family to Cornwall. I stayed in London because I had to work for the government. I had to help with the use of radar systems and secret codes and messages. There were many difficult days during the war and I made several long journeys to visit my family. 

After the war, I decided to make a new start. I started a new company, John Logie Baird Limited, and worked very long hours. I wanted to invent colour television. But my health wasn’t good and in 1946, I had a heart attack and I never recovered. 

The television was a very important invention that changed education and entertainment. It changed people’s lives. A lot of people use my invention. Think about the number of people around the world who watch television every day! 


The Life of John Logie Baird: 

1888 – John Logie Baird was born in Helensburgh, Scotland. 

1900 – When he was 12 years old, he built his own telephone. 

1903 – He read a German book about selenium – a chemical substance that he later used in his experiments. His interest in television began. 

1914 – He studied electrical engineering at Glasgow University. The First World War started. He stopped his studies. He started work for Clyde Valley Electricity. 

1919 – He went to Trinidad in the West Indies. He continued with his research and experiments there. 

1920 – He returned to England and started doing his research again. 

1923-1924 – His television showed the first moving pictures of objects. 

1925 – He showed the first human face on television at Selfridges in London. A year later, he showed the first moving pictures of objects at the Royal Institution in London. 

1927 – He sent a signal between London and Glasgow. He started Baird Television Limited. 

1928-1930 – He showed new kinds of television. He sent an image of a human face between UK and the USA. The first British Television Play on the BBC was transmitted: ‘The Man with the Flower in his Mouth.’ 

1931 – He visited the USA and married a South African woman, Margaret Albu, in New York. They later had two children. 

1932 – By this year, the UK had sold 10,000 television sets. 

1936 – The BBC chose the technology of Marconi-EMI for television programmes. This technology replaced John Baird’s system. 

1940 – He did research on technical developments during the Second World War. 

1944 – He showed the first colour images on television. He continued with his research on colour television. 

1946 – He died when he was 57 years old in Sussex, England. 

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