The Boy Genius and The Mogul: Summary and book reviews of The Boy Genius and The Mogul by Daniel Stashower, plus links to an excerpt from The Boy Genius and The Mogul and a biography of Daniel Stashower.
The Boy Genius and The Mogul The Untold Story of Television
by Daniel Stashower
Hardcover: Apr 2002,
The world remembers Edison, Ford, and the Wright Brothers. But what about
Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of television, an innovation that did as much
as any other to shape the twentieth century? That question lies at the heart of The
Boy Genius and the Mogul, Daniel Stashower's captivating chronicle of
television's true inventor, the battle he faced to capitalize on his
breakthrough, and the powerful forces that resulted in the collapse of his
The son of a Mormon farmer, Farnsworth was born in 1906 in a single-room log
cabin on an isolated homestead in Utah. The Farnsworth family farm had no radio,
no telephone, and no electricity. Yet, motivated by the stories of scientists
and inventors he read about in the science magazines of the day, young Philo set
his sights on becoming an inventor. By his early teens, Farnsworth had become an
inveterate tinkerer, able to repair broken farm equipment when no one else
could. It was inevitable that when he read an article about a new idea -- for
the transmission of pictures by radio waves--that he would want to attempt it
himself. One day while he was walking through a hay field, Farnsworth took note
of the straight, parallel lines of the furrows and envisioned a system of
scanning a visual image line by line and transmitting it to a remote screen. He
soon sketched a diagram for an early television camera tube. It was 1921 and
Farnsworth was only fourteen years old.
Farnsworth went on to college to pursue his studies of electrical engineering
but was forced to quit after two years due to the death of his father. Even so,
he soon managed to persuade a group of California investors to set him up in his
own research lab where, in 1927, he produced the first all-electronic television
image and later patented his invention. While Farnsworth's invention was a
landmark, it was also the beginning of a struggle against an immense corporate
power that would consume much of his life. That corporate power was embodied by
a legendary media mogul, RCA President and NBC founder David Sarnoff, who
claimed that his chief scientist had invented a mechanism for television prior
to Farnsworth's. Thus the boy genius and the mogul were locked in a
confrontation over who would control the future of television technology and the
vast fortune it represented. Farnsworth was enormously outmatched by the media
baron and his army of lawyers and public relations people, and, by the 1940s,
Farnsworth would be virtually forgotten as television's actual inventor, while
Sarnoff and his chief scientist would receive the credit.
Restoring Farnsworth to his rightful place in history, The Boy Genius and the
Mogul presents a vivid portrait of a self-taught scientist whose brilliance
allowed him to "capture light in a bottle." A rich and dramatic story
of one mans perseverance and the remarkable events leading up to the launch
of television as we know it, The Boy Genius and the Mogul shines new
light on a major turning point in American history.
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.
research renders this technological history fascinating even to readers with
Booklist - Gavin Quinn
.... young Philo
Farnsworth, with limited funding and a handful of friends to help build the
apparatus, could not compete with the powerful David Sarnoff, president of RCA,
who was determined to become the leader in the television effort. This book
intermingles biographies of both men with the broader story of television's
early years. Stashower treads a thin line in the amount of technical detail he
provides; it is enough to give the reader an idea of what the inventors had to
work with, yet simplified enough to be accessible to a general audience.
'Acclaimed as a genius, reviled as a madman, Edward Teller refuses to be ignored.....Curiosity will impel even his harshest critics into these memoirs, where both his powerful intellect and his imperious ego are on full display.'
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