on May 17, 2004
The authors draw on unpublished and, in some cases, hitherto unknown material to present a comprehensive new account of the life of this enigmatic and controversial Scottish genius.
In January 1926 Baird was the first publicly to demonstrate real television. Other pioneering achievements followed, including the first transatlantic transmission, the first demonstrations of colour television and stereoscopic television, and the first video recordings. In the 1930s he twice televised the Derby, and was the first to demonstrate television technology in the cinema in both black-and-white and colour. During World War II he developed high-definition and stereoscopic television in colour, and invented the first all-electronic colour television tube. He also made significant advances in radio imaging, secret signalling, fibre optics, infra-red scanning, and fast facsimilie transmission.
Throughout his life he struggled with ill health and lack of funding, to the extent that he paid for his initial research efforts and his final, heroic, and perhaps most startling, developments out of his own pocket.
This balanced, thoroughly documented and splendidly readable account throws new light not only on Baird himself, but on many of those associated with him. Truth is separated from legend, and the facts are uncovered behind Baird's auto-biographical memoir, published in 1988 as Sermons, Soap and Television, the text of which can now be compared with a recently discovered manuscript containing his own corrections.
Fresh information is revealed about the 'lost' years in London and Hastings in the early 1920s, which includes for the first time details of the company Baird established to sell soap, his unconventional romance, and the Falkirk connection.
Special treatment is given to Baird's troubled relationship with the BBC, and in particular to the role played by the corporation's director general, Sir John Reith. There is a full account of Baird's brave efforts to establish a presence in the USA. Also disclosed is the background to the boardroom coup which resulted in Baird being relieved of his duties as managing director of the company which he had founded.
In the light of their review of existing sources and examination of fresh evidence, the authors reach several conclusions which modify or challenge received opinion. Much of the documentation of from family and other archives, including Baird's wartime letters to his friend Sydney Moseley, extracts from the private diaries of Eustace Robb (the BBC's first television producer), company memos and reports of the early 1930s, and many of the sixty photographs, has never before been published.