Chapter 5: Rows In A Field…Television before Farnsworth


John Baird’s version of mechanical television

The promotional literature distributed by the Farnsworth Television
Corporation in the 1930s described Philo’s invention as electronic television. This was to distinguish Farnsworth’s totally electronic system from mechanical television. For while mechanical television was dependent on large, cumbersome revolving discs, or in some cases, rotating mirrored drums, Farnsworth’s electronic television system had no moving parts.
For a number of years, several inventors had tinkered with mechani-
cal television with only limited success.
In one version of mechanical television, an image was produced by a
neon tube that glowed red with varying intensity through a series of small square perforations in a spiral pattern on a spinning disc. The aluminum discs were about the size of an extra-large pizza and were used for both transmission and reception purposes.


The mechanical television system was problematic, to say the least.
A major difficulty was that the transmitting scanning disc had to be perfectly synchronized with the receiving disc. If the discs were out of sync, the resulting picture would range from extremely blurry to indistinguishable. And even when the discs were perfectly in sync (which wasn’t all that often), the image’s resolution was still very poor—thirty lines compared to Farnsworth’s initial sixty and later four-hundred-plus line image.
The image lines in mechanical television ran vertically (instead of horizontally as in the electronic system) and were slightly curved since they were generated by a large revolving disc.

low res. baird

The low image resolution of John Logie Baird’s mechanical television was a major disadvantage that led to the technology’s replacement by electronic television systems.
Another negative aspect of mechanical television was the size of the
televised image. For example, the 1939 Baird Televisor’s red and black
image was only half the size of a business card.
Mechanical television, in its crudest forms, had been around since
the mid-1880s. The Russian-German scientist Paul Gottlieb Nipkow is
credited with inventing the first mechanical television system in 1884.
Nipkow’s American counterpart, Charles Francis Jenkins, spent several
years improving the mechanical system and gave it the name “Radiovision.”

Chapter 2: A Shining Piece of Metal….A Splash of Color, A Splash of Hope

When Kathy Headlee began contemplating what she wanted to accomplish by visiting an orphanage in Romania, color played a key role in her plans.

Kathy was determined to make a real difference at the orphanage.   She wanted to accomplish the somewhat intangible, such as bringing comfort and peace to young, tender souls; but she also wanted to bring about tangible—specific and physical—changes to the orphanage itself. And so she acquired buckets of brightly colored paint…

And when she arrived at the orphanage, she and her voluteers set about to make a colorful change.

As the days passed a charming transformation began to take place at the orphanage. Grey walls became peach, pink, sky blue and bright summer yellow. And near the ceiling there was a cheery row of stenciled rainbows, teddy bear shapes, butterflies and stars.

When I saw the following story about Noah Wilson, I was struck how he, like Kathy,  realized the role that color plays in lifting spirits.


Noah Wilson remembered for legacy of kindness, courage

Royals fan, 7, dies days after new leukemia diagnosis

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —A 7-year-old Royals superfan whose spirit while fighting cancer captured hearts across Kansas City and the nation died suddenly Tuesday night.

Noah, who had completed treatment for bone cancer last month, was diagnosed with leukemia over the weekend. Doctors planned chemotherapy and a possible bone marrow transplant, but Noah died before those treatments could do any good.

“He just seemed to embody this innocence, this sense of hope, in spite of this great adversity, and I think, that’s really going to be his legacy, kind of that power, through his innocence,” said Noah’s uncle, Kelly Rickert.

His family said they found a handmade card tucked on Noah’s bedside table where he thanked God for everything He has done

KMBC 9 News first met Noah when he started a campaign to help other sick children by collecting colorful bandages to replace standard-issue hospital beige ones. He said he thought the splash of color in a hospital environment might bring smiles.

His campaign ultimately collected thousands of boxes of donated bandages and $7,000.

When word got out that his only birthday wish was to see the Royals play in the World Series, donations poured in. Joe Torre, on behalf of Major League Baseball, got tickets for Noah and his family and the donated money was used to buy World Series tickets for other children with cancer.

Noah’s generosity and courage attracted national attention. It also attracted the attention of Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer, who exchanged text messages with Noah last fall and into the current season.

Their friendship helped Noah forget about chemotherapy and radiation, especially when Hosmer came to visit him at the hospital.

“I went to the hospital to meet Eric Hosmer,” he said. “Not to get any pokes or anything. To meet Eric Hosmer.”

Noah said his dream was to play for the Royals someday.

After learning of Noah’s death, Hosmer tweeted, “Wow. It absolutely kills me to say this, but rest in peace to my hero, Noah Wilson.”

On the team account, the Royals tweeted, “Our hearts are broken. Thoughts and prayers to the family of our bravest little Royals fan.”

The Royals said they will honor Noah by collecting fun and colorful Band-Aids at the Royals Charities office at Kauffman Stadium during this weekend’s games.

Former Royals player Billy Butler tweeted from Oakland, “RIP Noah Wilson from KC! You fought hard, little man and we will continue to fight against childhood cancer in honor of you.”

Noah’s family posted a message on the Facebook page set up for him.

“He is forever wrapped in the loving arms of his lord and savior, Jesus Christ,” the message said. “No more pain. No more cancer. Just peace.”

A friend has created a crowdfunding page to help the family pay burial expenses.

The family issued the following statement about burial plans:

“We would love to have you join us for the following services to remember Noah’s life,” the statement said. “We encourage everyone to wear something blue, as that was his favorite color.”

Visitation will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church at 5501 Monticello Road in Shawnee from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday July 5 with a rosary at 8 p.m.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for Monday, July 6 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church at 13615 W. 92nd St. in Lenexa. A burial service will follow.

Chapter 5: Rows in a Field… “Where Are We Going?”–Pem Farnsworth’s Sense of Humor

Throughout his life, and even after his death, Phil Farnsworth was the recipient of his wife Pem’s unwavering support.  Throughout his life he could count on Pem for an encouraging word or a  cheerful comment.  And after his death, no one worked harder to preserve his legacy than Pem.

Phil spent his “glory years” in Fort Wayne, IN.  So that is why one of the newspapers from that area paid special  attention to his passing.  And as this article shows, Pem Farnsworth maintained her sense of humor right up to the end.



The Waynedale News Staff June 07, 2006


On Friday, May 12, 2006, at 11:00 AM The Waynedale News was at Provo, Utah inside the BYU Chapel for the funeral services of Elma “Pem” Gardner Farnsworth. The chapel was filled to capacity and the service began by reading a proclamation from the governor of Utah. After all the whereas,’ wherefores and therefore’s were read, it proclaimed that because of the tireless efforts of Pem Farnsworth and the great contributions Philo T. Farnsworth made to our culture, a bronze statue of him would be erected at Utah’s state capitol and also a U.S. postage stamp would be printed with his likeness on it.

Pem Farnsworth was born February 25, 1908, at Jensen, Utah. She was the daughter of Bernard E. and Alice Maria Mecham Gardner, and married to Philo T. Farnsworth, May 27, 1926, later solemnized in the Salt Lake City LDS Temple. She died April 27, 2006, at Bountiful, Utah.

Although several large newspapers including one of Fort Wayne’s, phoned Provo, Utah for information about Pem’s funeral, The Waynedale News was there to give our readers an “eyewitness” account. Although I arrived two hours before Pem’s service I nearly missed it after going on several wild goose chases to other campus chapels, but then I met a young man named Joshua McCall who jumped in my rental car and directed me to a campus administration building where he consulted a computer. Joshua got back in the car and personally directed me to the correct location with less than ten minutes to spare.

Josh escorted me into the BYU chapel where we signed the book and he introduced me to one of the LDS Prophets named Henry D. Eyring who was the main speaker. LDS, Branch President, Richard D. LeVitre conducted the services. James Rees Anderson, nephew, opened the ceremony with a family prayer. Prelude/postlude was by the BYU Music Department. The opening hymn was “How Great Thou Art,” The invocation was by Ronald E. Madsen, Jr. Pem’s life sketch was delivered by Russell Seymour “Skee,” a Farnsworth son, who shared this sad story.

In mid July1931, Philo moved their family from San Francisco, California, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to set up a new lab and an experimental broadcasting station for the Philco Corporation. In March of 1932 a profound tragedy struck the Farnsworth family. The Farnsworth’s young son Kenny developed a serious streptococcus infection in his throat and died. As tragic and unbearable as their loss was, the insensitivity they encountered from Philco’s corporate executives compounded their grief. Philo and Pem wanted Kenny buried at Provo, Utah. But the Philco executives said, “No,” they could not possibly spare Philo the time it would take for that trip? They had signed a contract and so that left it up to Pem alone, to make that long train trip back to Provo with Kenny’s casket in the baggage car. Although their loss seemed unbearable, a silver lining later appeared in that dark cloud, Philo went to the University of Pennsylvania Medical College and arranged for a team of medical professionals to carry out research on a new serum that they succeeded in producing and he also designed and built the first isolette (baby incubator), which has since saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of premature babies.

More remarks were made by Linda Farnsworth, daughter-in-law, and then Russell Farnsworth performed another musical number, “1st Prelude from the Well Tempered Klavier” by Bach.

John R. Anderson remarked extensively about Philo’s electronic “fusion” process and made some dire predictions about the future of our culture if it continues down the “fool’s path” of creating tons of nuclear waste from current “fission” processes. Further personal stories were shared by David N. Johnson about recent events at Fort Wayne’s airport when Pem attempted to board a plane without a driver’s license, picture ID, or a Social Security number. Airport security evidently couldn’t tell the difference between a ninety-eight year old woman in a wheelchair and a terrorist?

David also shared this story: “Right up to the last moment of her life Pem Farnsworth maintained her sense of humor. David’s wife whispered in Pem’s ear, “It’s okay to go now if you want to.” Pem got that famous twinkle in her eye and said, “Where are we going?”

Another musical number, “I am a Child of God,” was played and further remarks were delivered by LDS Branch President Richard D. LeVitre and then a member of the “Council Of Twelve” Elder Henry D. Eyring stressed the importance of higher education for young people and also mentioned the Farnsworth fusion project and the impact it might have had on our world if funding had not been withdrawn.

The funeral service concluded with the hymn, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” and the benediction was delivered by Ronald Farnsworth, a cousin.

Interment was at Provo City Cemetery and, the graveside dedication was delivered by Jesse Gardner Anderson great-nephew while “Always,” the 1925 Musical Score by Irving Berlin, was performed by the BYU Music Department. “Always” was Philo and Pem’s trademark song they sang it throughout their marriage, they were a duet in this life and they are now reunited in a harmonious eternal duet.

Radio interviews

I did three recent interviews for my book A Splash of Kindness: The Ripple Effect of Compassion, Courage & Kindness.

I really enjoyed doing these interviews. The radio hosts did an excellent job in drawing out the essence of the book.
Here are links to the interviews:

Stamps for Philo, Jesse, …and OWH (sort of)…


jesse owen stamp 2

jesse owens

owh jr stamp

uss constitution

Farnsworth’s commemorative stamp was issued September 21, 1983, twelve years after his death.  Jesse, who passed away in 1980, received two commemorative stamps–the first in 1990 and the second in 1998.  Holmes…Well, Oliver Wednell Holmes, Sr. never had a stamp issued in his honor.  But there was one for his son, and another for the USS Constitution, the ship his poem “Old Ironsides” helped preserve.


Chapter 6: Making Pop Proud…Lutz Long–Flash Mentor…Forever Friend

Jesse Owens and Luz Long at the Berlin Olympics, 1936
Jesse Owens and Luz Long at the Berlin Olympics, 1936


For Jesse Owens, Lutz Long was what I term a :”flash” mentor. In the book, I make the distinction between flash mentors and long-term mentors. For example, Coach Pop Riley was a long term mentor who worked with and guided Jesse for years.  Lutz Long, on the other hand, was a total stranger to Jesse, but in one brief, critical moment, gave Jesse guidance and encouragement that had positive, profound consequences.

But not only was Lutz Long a flash mentor…he was a forever friend. After the Olympics Lutz and Jesse corresponded through letters and cards.   And when Lutz lost his life fighting for a leader and a cause he didn’t support, Jesse still felt connected to the spirit of his friend.

Years later, Jesse finally had an opportunity to return to Berlin to star in a television special about the 1936 Olympics.   It was thrilling for Jesse to revisit some of the old sites where he made history as a young man. But his biggest thrill was to meet a young man who had blonde hair and an athletic build—Lutz Long’s son, Karl. For Jesse, it was almost like seeing his old friend again…

Here’s a link to the Jesse Owens television special.  I’ve cued it to the section on Lutz and Karl Long.