On this day in 1888: Birth of John Logie Baird, father of TV

Born on August 13 1888 in Helensburgh to the Rev John Bair and Jessie Morrison Inglis, John Logie Baird is best known as one of the inventors of the mechanical television.

John Logie Baird pictured carrying out a demonstration. Picture: Contributed
John Logie Baird pictured carrying out a demonstration. Picture: Contributed

Considered unfit for active service during World War I due to poor health, Baird worked for the Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company, who were involved in munitions work.

Although the development of television was worked on by many engineers, Baird was one of the most prominent and successful.

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He is widely credited as the first investor to produce a live, moving image using reflected light.

His poor health saw him move to Hastings in 1923, and he continued to work on developing television, using among other items an old hat box, bicycle lights and a used tea chest.

One incident in July 1924 that saw him survive a 1000-volt electric shock with just a burnt hand prompted his landlord to ask him to move on.

Baird travelled to London, and gave the first public demonstration of moving silhouette images in a branch of Selfridges.

In October 1925, Baird made his big breakthrough, successfully transmitting the first television picture with a greyscale image.

Moments later he repeated the feat with 20-year-old office worker William Edward Taynton - who became the first perrson to be televised ‘in a full tonal range’.

Baird went to the Daily Express to publicise his breakthrough, but was branded a ‘lunatic’ by the paper’s news editor.

Undeterred, Baird repeated the demonstration in January 1926 for members of the Royal Institution and a journalist from The Times.

Just over two years later, he demonstrated the world’s first colour transmission.

In May 1927, Baird continued to develop television, managing to transmit a long-distance television signal over nearly 440 miles of telephone line between the Central Hotel in Glasgow and London.

Baird’s transmission defeated the earlier long-distance transmission of 225 miles between New York and Washington DC the previous month.

Baird set up the eponymous Baird Television Development Company, which in 1928 made the first transatlantic transmission, between London and Hartsdale in New York.

The following November, Baird and Bernard Natan set up France’s first TV company and in 1931, Baird televised the Epsom Derby.

Although Baird’s importance began to diminish as firms such as Marconi and EMI moved in, and a serious fire at his laboratory hampered his progress, Baird is remembered for his work in developing television and laying the groundwork for the TV that we know today.

He made many contributions to the development of electronic television, and continued to work on new systems up until the early 1940s.

He suffered a stroke in February 1946, and died on June 14 1946. He is buried in Helensburgh along with his wife and parents.