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The Last Lone Inventor: A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  83 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
In a story that is both of its time and timeless, Evan I. Schwartz tells a tale of genius versus greed, innocence versus deceit, and independent brilliance versus corporate arrogance. Many men have laid claim to the title "father of television," but Philo T. Farnsworth is the true genius behind what may be the most influential invention of our time.

Driven by his obsession
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published May 14th 2002)
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Apr 19, 2008 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny by: Carole Larsen
This was an amazing story. I was in awe of the genius of Farnsworth & saddened by his struggles. I also felt frustration & anger at Sarnoff for his dishonest & ruthless business tactics. It definitely felt like a David vs. Goliath tale & I wanted to much for the underdog to come out on top.
Mar 01, 2017 ALLEN rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're like me, you'll put this book down amazed and invigorated at the scope of American technical innovation in the mid-Twentieth Century but a little disgusted at what RCA (parent of NBC) did to take Philo Farnsworth's birthright away from him. The little hick farmer's son from Utah made the cathode-ray tube capable of receiving televised images, and built a better picture tube than the one designed by the Russian inventor "General" Sarnoff of RCA imported. Drags a bit in the middle, but t ...more
Oct 03, 2007 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up for $5 at the Strand in the never-before-visited Science section - I was like Johnny 5 in Short Circuit when he goes into the bookstore and shouts "INPUT!!" Oh, so many wonderful things.


This book was very readable; the author organized the chapters so that you'd read a chapter about Philo T. Farnsworth, the farm kid who came up with the idea of electronic television in the 1920s, and then one about David Sarnoff, the head of RCA who wanted to be known himself as the Fath
I love studying the history of science and seldom has a book on this topic read more like a novel. The mind of young genius Philo T. Farnsworth seems to be overflowing with ideas almost from birth. The timing is right for he comes of age just as the information age is being transformed from the print medium that ruled the nineteenth century to audio and video that will rule the twentieth century. Many men have laid claim to the title "The Father of Television," but Philo T. Farnsworth is the tru ...more
Jan 31, 2008 Isaac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aspiring screenwriters take note: the Philo T. Farnsworth story is an absolute goldmine. From his humble beginnings on a farm as a fan of science fiction magazines to his idea that the plow lines of a field could be used as a template for the transmission of images using electron beams directed in the same fashion across a luminescent screen, from his initial experiments with home-fashioned equipment to the eventual patent wars with RCA which nearly left him destitute, this guy did an amazing th ...more
Alan McClain
Apr 17, 2016 Alan McClain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the amazing true story of the inventor of television, Philo Farnsworth, and his struggles to become successful with his team of electrical engineers who originated and perfected television. He was an American genius whose original design for television went to the moon with Apollo 11 in July, 1969 -- the first of six manned landings on the moon. He worked on automatic control systems for airplanes and even was working on generating electricity from nuclear fusion. The author has done a h ...more
Feb 20, 2014 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about Philo T. Farnsworth, who invented television. It's how an individual inventor can basically no longer invent something and make money from it, as the big corporations must be involved. David Sarnoff, from RCA, stole Farnsworth's idea for TV, and made money from it. The nastiness of Sarnoff is portrayed well.
The book tells about how NBC and CBS got started as television stations, which I found interesting. It talks about Einstein, Edison, Bell and Marconi as inventors and ind
Jan 12, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to note that Philo became somewhat disenchanted to the point of being critical about how the use of television ultimately transpired and evolved as more of an entertainment and "spin" medium vs. what he had hoped would be more along the lines of pure and honest communication. His interest lied more in the technology and workings of the instrument than it's actual application over the long term.

I enjoyed this book very much. I lived in the same neighborhood as Philo's widow (Elma "Pem
John E
Apr 27, 2015 John E rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a former Utahn, I knew of Farnsworth. This book was very good in discussing the development of the science of television (Farnsworth) and the corporate business of television (Sarnoff). Farnsworth was the idealist who provided the science, but society had changed from the older individualistic society to the corporate society that he could never really understand. Sarnoff was the egotistic plotter who sought and manipulated the new corporate power for the greater glory of Sarnoff. It all lead ...more
Sandra Strange
This book tells the story of Philo T. Farnsworth, the true inventor of television, and his legal fight against David Sarnoff, who took his invention and made a fortune with it. The villainy Farnsworth has to face and the chapter after chapter when he and his family suffer because he is trying to get justice get a little tiresome after awhile, but it happened...and it may still be happening to the anonymous geniuses who originate innovation.
Courtney Baker
Jul 19, 2011 Courtney Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, biography
A fascinating tale of a young boy with a brilliant idea who worked hard to bring his vision to fruition. I have always been fascinated by inventors and Schwartz does an excellent job of creating a juxtaposition between Farnsworth the brilliant inventor and Sarnoff the CEO who is brilliant at taking credit for other people's work.
Jeremiah Roth
Dec 01, 2013 Jeremiah Roth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely fascinating bit of history, and extremely compelling in its writing. It's a glimpse into the monopoly that was RCA (and the egomaniac who ran it), the birth of NBC and CBS, and even the involvement of important people like Albert Einstein and multiple US Presidents. One of the best non-fiction books I've read in a long time.
Hannah Sussman
I had to read this book for science class in school, and I was suprised to discover that although it was a very factual book, the author also carried a stream of lightness and humanity, a refreshing difference from the usual history books that drag on the ground. It also didnt feel like a non-fiction book, and i throughly appreciated this.
May 20, 2015 Linde rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting is well written, but does give a lot of detail. I am related to Philo Farnsworth (my Grandpa's cousin) which made it more interesting to me. It is not a light read, but well done.
Christopher Newton
Absolute amazing dramatic tale of the battle for the credit of inventing television - a classic tale of the little guy (Philo T. Farnsworth) who actually invented television, and David Sarnoff, head of RCA, who wanted the credit all for himself.
Mike Spencer
Great book about the drive it takes to win and people who try to take of advantage of you for profit.
Lorna Schofield
Jun 11, 2012 Lorna Schofield rated it really liked it
Well researched and a fascinating study of both Farnsworth and Sarnoff. For someone like myself who is not scientifically minded, the details of the invention were educational!
Dave Darus
Jun 28, 2008 Dave Darus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Made me really think are their anymore inventor/sceince geniuses out there that can have such an impact on nearly everyone. Maybe the world has gotten too big and complex, everything is now niche.
Sep 27, 2009 Brent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well researched, and easy read. Leads one to want to learn more about the inventor of television
James Keenley
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