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The Boy Genius and the Mogul: The Untold Story of Television Hardcover – April 9, 2002
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American culture celebrates inventors as heroes: Alexander Graham Bell, Edison, Henry Ford. In the fascinating The Boy Genius and the Mogul, Daniel Stashower adds a new name to the pantheon: Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of TV. "The general public has only the vaguest notion of how--or by whom--television was created," writes Stashower, who feels the story has been mistold, depriving the boy genius from rural Idaho of due credit. Stashower, a mystery novelist and biographer of Arthur Conan Doyle, uncovers the hidden history of Farnsworth's "image dissector." If RCA's David Sarnoff (the "mogul" of the title) had chosen to work with Farnsworth, the young man would have become a household name. But Farnsworth lost his chance at fame, mentally collapsed, and spent his last years bitterly disappointed. Watching the moon landing on a picture tube less than two years before his death, however, he turned to his wife and said, "This has made it all worthwhile." --John Miller
From Publishers Weekly
The book jacket asserts that it will tell the story of television's "real" inventor, Philo T. Farnsworth, a 14-year-old Idaho farm boy. It's a clever and accurate hook, since no one inventor can take credit for the magic black box. What makes Farnsworth unique aside from an intuitive leap while mowing a hayfield in 1922 is that he outlasted everyone else in his patent battle against RCA's David Sarnoff, who famously said, "RCA doesn't pay royalties. It collects them." Sarnoff makes a good foil: both men struggled up from poverty, Sarnoff by climbing the corporate ladder and Farnsworth by convincing financial backers to fund his research. Unfortunately for Farnsworth, "the era of the solitary inventor was quickly fading." Large, well-funded corporate laboratories were taking their place in the 1930s and reducing the inventor to a contract engineer. Stashower, a journalist and Edgar Award-winning biographer (for Teller of Tales), is also the author of three murder mysteries. He ends every chapter with a cliffhanger, which gets monotonous. However, his flair for storytelling does help move the book along through the necessary passages of technical jargon. Instilled with the glories of Edison, Ford and Gates, the public still romanticizes the genius in the attic, while recognizing that the spoils generally go to the rich and powerful.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
If you're looking for a quick read on the trials and tribulations of one of the key inventors of television, this is a good book. If you're looking for either a primer on early television technology or an extremely detailed account of Farnsworth's battle with Sarnoff, you may be a bit disappointed.
Daniel Stashower, a mystery novelist and biographer of Arthur Conan Doyle, discusses the history and development of Farnsworth's "image dissector." RCA's David Sarnoff (the "mogul" of the title) of course is portrayed as Farnsworth's nemesis. There is a fantastic amount of information on both of these brilliant people and the folk that surrounded them including a good background on Sarnof's TV developers Alexanderson (RCA Mechanical TV system) and Zworykin (Iconoscope <electronic system>). There is also interesting history on Jenkins(US) and Baird (UK), both being developers of mechanical television fame...
Daniel Stasworth writes an eloquent novel about the challenges faced by Philo Farnsworth. This exposure of the true workings and toilings of nature provides literally unknown or hidden knowledge of one of mankind's most influential innovations. The conflict and suspense of the heated battles between Farwnsworth and Sarnoff provides a well balanced drama for this biographical sketch. The essense of politics, business, science, and intelligence all combine in this story to provide a great novel about everyone's favorite little black box. It is a story that will amaze, interest, and educate any reader about a true-life story of hardwork, loss, and contentment through the workings of Philo T. Farnsworth. A great read- you should pick it up!