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From clear across the potato field, Lewis Farnsworth could see that his son was in danger. It was an early spring morning in 1921, and fourteen-year-old Philo was in his usual trance during one of his many repetitive chores. The kid was sitting on top of a three-disk plow that engraved three parallel furrows in the soil at once. The apparatus was being pulled up and down the field by a team of three horses. Philo was supposed to be holding three sets of reins, but his mind was somewhere else. He grasped only two, inadvertently dropping the third. The sight of the stray leather strap dragging on the ground alarmed the elder Farnsworth.
The plow's rotating metal blades could shred a man to pieces in a few moments. Lewis Farnsworth had heard that it happened to a farmer back in their home state of Utah. A startled horse dragged the sharp edges of the disks into his back, and the man died of his wounds before any medical help could arrive. Without control of the harness, Philo might meet the same fate. He wouldn't be able to halt a rampaging horse, and Lewis Farnsworth knew this particular horse to be especially skittish.
He also knew that he couldn't shout across the field or surprise the horses in any way. With steady strides, he walked toward the end of the row that Philo was finishing. As he stooped to lift the rein, Philo leaped from his seat, shouting, "Papa! Papa! I've got it!"
The horse, irritated by the boy's sudden exclamation, let out a loud neigh. But Lewis Farnsworth was now clutching the thirdstrap, and he reined in the beast just in time.
What on Earth could this boy be yelling about?
"I got the idea that will win the prize money!" Philo exclaimed.
"Philo," he growled back, "You could have been killed!"
His father's anger snapped Philo out of his daze. When he became aware of what had just occurred, he apologized and promised never to let it happen again. Then he started to explain what was preoccupying his mind. He'd been working on an idea.
The Farnsworths lived on a ranch in Idaho's Snake River Valley, where granite-faced mountains peered over pine-green forests. True to its name, the river snaked through the valley, irrigating the fields of potatoes and sugar beets through a network of diversion dams and canals. Hundreds of rural acres separated the homesteads, but the nearby town of Rigby had its own schools and churches, plus a bustling Main Street with a savings and loan, a telegraph office, a newspaper publisher, a general store, a furniture shop, and a bar.
Philo was a good-looking but skinny boy with a serious gaze and a square jaw. He detested the drudgery of farmwork, and he was constantly searching for ideas that could enable the family to escape their dependence on the land. He desperately sought his father's approval of these ideas. He knew his father was upset over what had happened that morning, but he needed to explain himself. After dinner that night, he brought his dad a recent copy of Science and Invention magazine. There was something special inside, and he needed to show him.
The cover of the magazine featured a painting of a bright red monorail bullet train suspended above the bustling streets of Chicago. No train like it actually existed. This particular edition was important because the magazine was now renaming itself. It had previously been known as the Electrical Experimenter. Inside, the editor, Hugo Gernsback, explained that the original title had too narrow an appeal given the sudden rush of new technology into the mainstream of society. But he assured readers that the periodical would remain true to its roots as the monthly for experimenters and inventors, "that vast horde of intellectual Americans, in whom the physical progress of the country is centered." He said the goal was to build the circulation from the current 200,000 households up to 500,000.
The magazine was chock-full of ads for electrical training institutes: Earn Up to $175 a Week! Be a Certified Electrician! Be an Expert in 31/2 Months! Electricity Is the Biggest Force in the World Today! The Very Existence of the World Depends on the Electrician! Get into It as Quick as You Can! Choose Your Future Now!
What had caught Philo's eye was a monthly contest that the magazine was sponsoring, offering a twenty-five-dollar first prize, a fifteen-dollar second prize, and a ten-dollar third prize for the best invention to improve the automobile in any way. The Farnsworths did not own a car, but they knew people in town who did. From watching them sputter up hills and careen down roads, Philo could see that the popular Model-T Fords were rather crude affairs. They could certainly use all the help they could get. Any improvements, so far, seemed as primitive as the cars themselves. The second prize in the previous installment of the contest went to an idea for starting a car in damp weather: simply stuff a handkerchief into the air intake pipe. That idea fetched fifteen dollars.
First prize, meanwhile, went to the idea of attaching a horn beneath the rear fender. If the horn was not first switched off by the owner, a stranger stepping onto the running board would complete an electric circuit, setting off an obnoxious wail that would alert neighbors. It was said to be the first electric "thief alarm" for automobiles. And for that, the magazine revealed, a woman named Edna Purdy would collect twenty-five dollars.
Philo had an idea that would even top Edna Purdy's. Instead of an alarm, why not have a lock on the steering column? All the keys that started the Model-Ts were the same -- a piece of flat...The Last Lone Inventor. Copyright © by Evan Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
|Prologue: a Miscalculation||1|
|1||Fields of Vision||9|
|2||Making a Great Man||29|
|7||Life on Green Street||111|
|10||Who Owns What?||199|
|12||All's Fair, World's Fair||259|
|Epilogue: Perceptions and Reality||295|
Many men have laid claim to the title "The Father of Television," but Philo T. Farnsworth is the true genius behind what may be the most influential invention of our time. Farnsworth ended up a footnote in history yet he was the first to demonstrate an electronic process for scanning, transmitting and receiving moving images, a discovery that changed the way we live.
Growing up on a small farm in Idaho, Farnsworth was fascinated by anything scientific, especially the newest thing on the market -- radio. Wouldn't it be even more miraculous to project images along with the sound? Driven by his obsession, Farnsworth found a local philanthropist willing to fund his dream. By the age of twenty, in 1926, Farnsworth was operating his own laboratory above a garage in San Francisco and filing his first patent applications. The resulting publicity brought him to the attention of David Sarnoff, the celebrated founder of the NBC radio network, whose own RCA laboratories soon began investigating -- without much initial success -- a way to transmit a moving image. Determined to control television the way he monopolized radio -- by owning all the royalty producing patents -- Sarnoff, from the lofty heights of his office in a New York skyscraper, devised a plan to steal credit for Farnsworth's designs and the two sides ended up in patent court.
Vividly written, and based onoriginal research, including interviews with surviving Farnsworth family members, The Last Lone Inventor tells the story of the epic struggle between two equally passionate adversaries and how their clash symbolized a turning point in the culture of creativity.
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Posted November 21, 2010
In the last lone inventor a tenacious young inventor named Philo T. Farnsworth starts to tinker with all of his family's possessions starting with the generator, and gradually develops the key that will only work on the one ignition switch it is magnetized to. As Philo becomes older he thinks up a device to replace the radio called, Television, and this device would project images on a screen and people could watch live T.V. on their sofas instead of hearing them over a speaker. AS the plot thickens, every story has to have a villain and this one wants Philo's designs and his name is David Sarnoff CEO of RCA. this story is a great back and forth of ideas and prototypes. As you will see Sarnoff will have the advantage of money and employment of scientists, while Farnsworth is working in a little apartment in San Francisco.
I liked how in this book Philo refuses to give up and let down people who have looked up to him. I do not like how it sounds so cliche because a boy has a dream and pursued his dream and in the end it has no twist it just says he succeeded. Although all these attributing factors I would read the book again and again and keep finding great hidden meanings and morals of this heartfelt book.
I highly recommend the book Finding OZ it is about the conspiracies of what OZ is in The Wizard Of OZ. This book is highly attributed and very intriguing book. even if you aren't a fan of The Wizard Of OZ this book will still get you to formulate your own opinion, but subtly throwing in messages about the suspiciousness of OZ.
The major theme in this book would be don't give up and try your hardest even if someone or something more powerful is your competitor, if you have the will to succeed you will. This is such a great meaning it really made me feel like i needed to finish everything i had started and give 150% to whatever I am doing.
Posted August 8, 2002
A great story extremely well told. Without embellishment, the tension mounts as the brilliant lone inventor is slowly pulled into the brilliant businessman's trap. Like watching a train wreck in slow motion, the inevitability of the outcome matters not one whit; the drama is so engrossing that the denouement doesn't matter.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 18, 2009
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Posted September 14, 2010
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