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John Logie Baird: Inventor of the First Successful Television Broadcast

Readmikenow is a freelance writer who enjoys researching music, movies, history, and more.

John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird

The Inventor of Television

It was January 26, 1926, when John Logie Baird stood before 50 scientists in a central London attic room. It was here where he provided the world's first demonstration of a working television. The demonstration required over 437 miles of telephone line to be extended between the cities of Glasgow, Scotland, and London, England. After the demonstration, Baird formed the Baird Television Development Company. (BTDC).

Baird's company was able to achieve the first transatlantic television broadcast transmission in 1928. It occurred between a small village in New York and London. The BTDC also achieved the first ship to ship television broadcast transmission in the mid-Atlantic. Baird is also recognized as giving the first demonstration of stereoscopic and color television.

Early Years

On August 13, 1888, John Logie Baird was born in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire, in Scotland. He was the youngest of four children. His father was named John Baird and was a Reverend with the Church of Scotland. His mother's name was Jessie Morrison Inglis. Baird was educated at Lomond School which was known as Larchfield Academy at the time he attended it. He also attended the University of Glasgow and Scotland Technical College. During the time he was in college, Baird took different jobs as an engineering apprentice. He worked long hours and this harmed his health. While in college, Baird became an agnostic. His father accepted his decision and new belief. Baird was unable to complete his engineering course as World War I interrupted it. He never went back to complete his studies.

Television Experiment

Baird purchased a thallium sulfide (Thalofide) cell in 1924 from Cyril Frank Elwell. This cell was an essential part of the new 'talking pictures' technology being developed. Baird's successful experiments with this cell enabled him to become the first individual to create a grayscale television image that was live and moved using reflected light. Baird was able to succeed in developing this new technology while many other inventors failed. He created two unique methods associated with the thallium sulfide cell. This was made possible by improving the cell's signal condition. It was also accomplished by using a cooling or temperature optimization method with a video amplifier developed by Baird.

John Logie Baird in his workshop.

John Logie Baird in his workshop.

Building the First Television Broadcast System

Baird was in poor health when he moved to the south coast of England in 1923. Soon after moving there, he rented a workshop in a place known as the Queen's Arcade in the local village. This is when Baird built a device that would become part of the world's first television broadcast system. He used a variety of common household items he had recently purchased. They included some darning needles, a used tea chest, an old hat box, a few bicycle light lenses, a pair of scissors, glue, sealing wax, and more.

Radio Times

A semi-mechanical analog system was demonstrated by Baird to the publication Radio Times in February 1924. He showed how it was possible to successfully transmit moving silhouette images. In July of 1924, Baird survived a 1000-volt electrical shock. He was able to survive with only a slight burn to his hand. This upset his landlord who asked Baird to leave the workshop he was letting him rent. Soon after this, Baird was in London at the Selfridge department store providing the first public demonstrations of moving silhouette images. These demonstrations lasted for approximately three weeks.

John Logie Baird during a television broadcast transmission.

John Logie Baird during a television broadcast transmission.

First Television Picture Transmission

On October 2, 1925, Baird was working in his laboratory when he was able to successfully transmit the first television picture. It was a grayscale image showing a ventriloquist dummy's head. The ventriloquist dummy was known as Stocky Bill. It was five pictures per second and involved an image with 30 vertical lines. Once this worked, Baird went and got a person to see how a human face would appear. William Edward Taynton agreed to help Baird. It worked and made Taynton the first person to have his image broadcast on television.


After his success, Baird wanted to get publicity for his invention. He visited the newspaper Daily Express. His invention scared the newspaper's news director. This man told a reporter to go to the newspaper's reception and find a way to get rid of the lunatic who is down there. The news director yelled that this man claims to have a machine that makes it possible for people to see images on a wireless device, and to be careful as he may have a razor on him. The newspaper's reporter ultimately agreed to do a story about Baird's invention.

John Logie Baird showing the device used for the first color television transmission.

John Logie Baird showing the device used for the first color television transmission.

First Color Transmission

On July 3, 1928, Baird was able to provide a demonstration of the first color television broadcast transmission. He accomplished this by using scanning discs when transmitting and receiving. Each end had three spirals of apertures. Each of the spirals he used had a filter consisting of a specific primary color. There was a three-light source at the receiving end. Baird used a commutator to alternate the image's illumination. The first color image transmission was of a young girl wearing various hats of different colors.

Stereoscopic Television

This system can transmit an image that has the appearance of depth and solidity. This provides a look of a real living object and not a flat picture. Baird was able to provide a demonstration of his stereoscopic television invention in 1928.


Baird Married Margaret Albu in 1931. The couple had a son, Malcolm, and a daughter, Diana. Starting in December 1944, Baird and his family lived at 1 Station Road, Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex in England.

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Newspaper article about John Logie Baird's death.

Newspaper article about John Logie Baird's death.


Baird struggled with bad health for much of his life. On June 14, 1945, he passed away at his home located at Bexhill-on-Sea. Most of his early contributions were nearly forgotten. Baird died in relative obscurity.


Soon after he died, Baird was ranked on the list of 100 greatest Britons. He is also listed as one of the ten greatest Scottish scientists of all time. The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) placed Baird on its Honor Roll in 2014. This is designed to recognize people who have passed away but whose contributions to television would have earned them membership during their lives.


© 2020 Readmikenow


Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 07, 2020:

I agreed.

Readmikenow (author) on September 07, 2020:

Dora, thanks. Throughout history people have struggled to accept new inventions.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 07, 2020:

Happy that Baird received the recognition he deserved. It's funny to think that he was considered a lunatic because of his invention. Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between genius and insanity. Thank you very much for the details.

Readmikenow (author) on September 05, 2020:

Miebakagh, thanks.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 05, 2020:

All comments insightful. Thanks.

Readmikenow (author) on September 05, 2020:

MG, thanks. I agree he is not well known, but his work actually did change the world.

Readmikenow (author) on September 05, 2020:

Cheryl, thanks for taking the time to read it.

Readmikenow (author) on September 05, 2020:

Liz, thanks. I agree.

Readmikenow (author) on September 05, 2020:

Fran, thanks. He didn't even get the recognition he deseres.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on September 05, 2020:

Very interesting story. Brought to light a man who is not that much known

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 04, 2020:

I never knew any of this. Thank you for sharing this fascinating information

Liz Westwood from UK on September 04, 2020:

John Logie Baird was ahead of his time. The television that we now take for granted owes a lot to him.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on September 04, 2020:

What an interesting article! I had never heard of him but am glad to get was one of the geniuses that make inventions important. Too bad he probably never reaped the monetary rewards he was due.

Readmikenow (author) on September 04, 2020:

Eric, thanks. I just think it is a shame that so few people know of his contribution to something that made such a huge impact on the world.

Readmikenow (author) on September 04, 2020:

Miebakagh, thanks.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 04, 2020:

Great story. What an interesting man.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on September 04, 2020:

I've not heart even the basics in physics. And like all electronic devices, its application is wide spread, not just in the multimedia, but I think in medicine, engineering, aviation, and more importantly, in the military. Thanks for sharing.

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