November 1929 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
'Father of Radiovision' (RV) was the title bestowed upon Charles Francis Jenkins for his work in what would eventually
become known as television (TV), which is a very good thing because otherwise mass confusion would have ensued by
to the ambiguousness of having to contend with a familiar reference to recreational vehicles (RV) when the 'other'
RV is what was meant ;-) Mr. Jenkins was also the inventor of the
Phantoscope motion picture machine. BTW,
did you know that the Coast Guard was originally called "Life-Saving
See other "Men Who Made Radio" :
Sir Oliver Lodge,
Count Georg von
Arco, E. F.
W. Alexanderson, Frank
Hertz, James Clerk Maxwell
Men Who Made Radio - C. Francis Jenkins
The Second of a Series
A characteristic study of C. Francis Jenkins, America's Television Pioneer.
While other great inventors have devoted their attention successfully to the problems of converting sounds into
radio waves and back again, or dispersing these waves over the earth and finding them again, the subject of our cover
illustration this month has specialized upon a task which differs from all the above. It has been his purpose to extend
the range of human sight, rather than of hearing, by radio. And no man has spent more effort, or succeeded so well,
in the endeavor to widen the vision of mankind, than C. Francis Jenkins. It was he who by his invention of the "Phantoscope,"
the parent of all motion-picture machines (the patent rights of which were sold to Thomas A. Edison for the trifle
of $2,500) prepared the way for the eighth wonder of the modern world, and made the human race movie-wise, from Alaska
Logically, then, the man who put "motion" into motion pictures may eventually succeed in putting "eye-appeal" into
radio - in transforming homes into miniature motion picture theaters! His new 5,000-watt transmitting station in Maryland;
his laboratory experiments in the development of radiovision transmitting and receiving apparatus, such as drum scanners
and television-image boards; the transmission and reception of weather maps at sea by radio; the sending and receiving
of photographs by radio; broadcasting visual images from an airplane; development of a radio or capacity altimeter
for landing aircraft; and eventual attempts to broadcast images of living subjects - all of these efforts were designed
to make radio's message available to the eye. For this reason, he has been described as the "Father of Radiovision,"
- just as Dr. de Forest is known as the "Father of Modern Broadcasting."
Born 61 years ago in a rural district north of Dayton, Ohio, C. Francis Jenkins, with his Quaker parents, moved to
a farm near Richmond, Indiana, where he spent his boyhood. He attended a rural school, a high school, and Earlham
College - and, quite recently, he flew from Washington to Indiana in his own airplane to receive an honorary degree
from his alma mater, in recognition of his inventive accomplishments. His youthful days on the farm were marked by
their curiosity as to the "innards" of a watch, the workings of farm machinery, and other things mechanical. Affected
with wanderlust, he migrated to the wheat-fields and timber regions of the Northwest and, subsequently, to mining
camps and sawmills of the Southwest; where he had further opportunity to familiarize himself with the whys and wherefores
In 1890, Mr. Jenkins, tiring of the lure of the mining camps and the uncouthness of sawmill operations, came to
the National Capital and accepted a position as secretary to Sumner I. Kimball of the "Life-Saving Service," now known
as the Coast Guard. It may seem a far cry from the position of a government stenographer to invention as a lifetime
profession; but in 1895 Mr. Jenkins embarked on this seemingly precarious undertaking. While boarding near the Capitol
he had received inventive inspiration from the behavior of a crude box-camera and, without knowledge of photography,
he began construction of the prototype of the motion-picture projector, now used in theaters all over the world. That
marked the beginning of his inventive career one of such cumulative proportions as to include more than 400 domestic
and foreign patents. Perhaps the most profitable of these is the simple but universally used spiral-wound paraffin
all-paper containers - the kind in which you may take ice cream from the drug-store to your home.
The interest of Mr. Jenkins in radio has extended over only a brief period - hardly exceeding five years - yet
it has been eventful and crowded with one development after another, in quick succession. He (who had made the first
electrical transmission and reception of a recognizable moving image, in his laboratory in 1922), gave the first public
demonstration of the transmission and reception of motion pictures by radio on June 13, 1925: the images being broadcast
from NOF, the naval air station at Anacostia, D. C., and received in the Jenkins Laboratories, at a distance of about
7 miles. He has broadcast and received "still" photographs, between Washington and Philadelphia; and, on July 2, 1928,
he inaugurated a regular schedule of broadcasts of motion pictures by radio. Quite recently, Mr. Jenkins opened his
new 5-kilowatt visual transmitting station and, in connection with this formidable effort, it is well to quote a
proverb found in his laboratories, "They said it couldn't be done; but he, poor fool, didn't know it, and went ahead
and did it." To this may be added a witticism of Mr. Jenkins: "If I stay poor enough long enough, I may be able to
accomplish something really worth while."
Posted September 2, 2014