PHILO T. FARNSWORTH AND THE IMAGE DISSECTOR

North of the town of Beaver, Utah on old highway 91 is a small gathering of a few homes called Manderfield. Here farmers till the soil around a small stream called Indian Creek that drains down from the high Tusher Mountains to the east. All of the homes have been around for more than 50 years and some have fallen into disrepair as the residents move closer to the county seat a few miles south.

Until recently one of these places, a pioneer home made of wood logs, was nestled among the rabbit brush along a dusty road. It’s no longer there.

Back in 1906 Lewis Farnsworth, the man who lived in the log house, had kissed his sleeping wife, Serena, and left the house to milk the cows early in the morning. Serena was his second wife; his first one had died some years back. Now Serena was late in her pregnancy with her first child.

As Lewis pulled back the top fence pole on the corral gate, he heard a woman’s voice behind him calling his name. Turning, he saw the familiar figure of his former wife, Amelia, standing a few feet away. He set down his bucket, rubbed his eyes and shook his head. When he opened his eyes she was still there and began to speak.

“I have come to tell you that Serena’s child is one of God’s special spirits; great care should be taken in his upbringing.” Then she faded from sight, leaving Lewis shaken, but he realized that for his former wife to come to him, her message must have been very important.

When Lewis finally told Serena what he had seen and heard, she looked at his pale face and shaking hand and knew that something very special was about to occur.

The birth and life of their new son, Philo Taylor Farnsworth, was indeed remarkable. The family moved to Idaho where Philo quickly exhibited a brilliant and creative mind. The field of radio transmission began to flourish in 1922 with the first commercial broadcasts. The nation was soon spanned with wired networks capable of bringing the world of news and entertainment to the far reaches of the population.

Philo’s mind was fascinated by electronic systems and he envisioned the use of this new tool to produce pictures as well as sound, and as a young high school student he designed a camera tube to convert light into electronic streams by scanning a light-sensitive surface with a beam that would change intensity as the image changed brightness – he called it his image dissector.

He worked for years to perfect the concept and finally in San Francisco showed his invention to the press. But others stole his ideas and tried to patent their own versions. It took most of his life, and numerous court battles, to prove that he was the first to invent his scanning device. Finally, his high school teacher in Idaho, with early sketches in hand, gave the proof.

So, the old log cable has been moved from Manderfield. It now sits, refurbished, on the grounds of a small park near the old county courthouse at 100 East Center Street in Beaver City. Next to it stands a statue of a tall slender man holding a strange-looking object in his hands – the image dissector tube. A copy of this statue also stands in the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C., a tribute to a native of Manderfield, Utah, Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of the greatest communication tool mankind has ever known – television.

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