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Vladimir Zworykin was born in Murom, Russia in 1889
Television pioneer, Dr. Vladimir Kosma Zworykin died at the Princeton Medical Center on July 29, 1982, one day short of his ninety-third birthday. Elected an Honorary Vice-President of the RCA Corporation upon his retirement in 1954, Dr. Zworykin was often called the "father of television." However, he declined the accolade, telling interviewers that hundreds contributed to television over many years. He preferred to compare television's development with the building of a ladder, explaining that as each engineer added a rung, "It enabled the others to climb a little higher and see the next problem a little better."
"Father" or not, there is no question that the achievement of practical television stems to a large extent from Dr. Zworykin's pioneering work in the 1920s and 1930s. His conception of the first practical TV camera tube, the iconoscope, and his development of the kinescope picture tube formed the basis for almost all important later advances in the field.
A Russian immigrant, he came to the United States after World War I and worked for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh from 1920 to 1929. It was there that he did some of his early work on television. But it was not until he teamed up in 1929 with another Russian immigrant, Gen. David Sarnoff, later President and Chairman of RCA, that his television work got the management and financial backing that enabled Dr. Zworykin and the RCA scientists working with him to develop television into a practical system. Both men never forgot their first meeting. In response to Gen. Sarnoff's question, Dr. Zworykin, thinking solely in research terms, estimated that the development of television would cost $100,000. Years later, Gen. Sarnoff delighted in teasing Dr. Zworykin by telling audiences what a "great salesman" the inventor was. "I asked him how much it would it cost to develop TV. He told me $100,000, but RCA spent $50 million before we ever got a penny back from TV."
Dr. Zworykin was born on July 30, 1889, in Mourom, Russia, where his father owned and operated a fleet of boats on the Oka River. As the owner's son, he had the run of the ships and often played with the pushbuttons used to signal the engine room from the bridge. Thus, Dr. Zworykin would tell interviewers, he was intrigued with electrical communications well before he was lO years old.
Perhaps because of this interest in communications, his father sent him to the Petrograd Institute of Technology which awarded him an Electrical Engineering degree in 1912. At the institute, Dr. Zworykin studied under, and assisted, Professor Boris Rosing, to whom Dr. Zworykin credited both his decision to become a scientist and his special interest in television and electronics. As early as 1906, Prof. Rosing believed that the solution to practical television was to be found, not in mechanical systems, but in the employment of cathode ray tubes. Dr. Zworykin's iconoscope and kinescope followed this line of reasoning.
In 1912, Dr. Zworykin entered the College de France in Paris, where he studied X-rays under the noted scientist Professor Paul Langevin. His studies were interrupted by World War I and Dr. Zworykin had to return to Russia to serve in the Army Signal Corps. After the war, he came to the United States, becoming a citizen in 1924. He received a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in 1926.
Soon after arriving in the U.S., Dr. Zworykin joined the Westinghouse research staff and began investigations in the field of photoelectric emission. He also resumed his research in television. Dr. Zworykin became associated with RCA in 1929. He served as Director of the Electronic Research Laboratory. first in Camden. N.J and from 1942 until his retirement in 1954, at Princeton, N.J.
In addition to TV. Dr. Zworykin applied his talents to a broad field of electronics and held more than 120 U.S. patents on developments ranging from gunnery controls to electronically controlled missiles and automobiles. Because of Dr. Zworykin's research activities, important devices such as various forms of secondary emission multipliers and image tubes were developed and perfected. The "Snooperscope" and "Sniperscope" - important military developments in World War II - were practical applications of research on infrared image tubes.
Dr. Zworykin's intensive study of electron optics directed his interest to the electron microscope. RCA's pioneering in the commercial development of the electron microscope typifies Dr. Zworykin's genius - not only his scientific expertise but his ability to attract and motivate good scientists. In 1940, he hired a young Canadian graduate student. , to work on the electron microscope. Dr. Hillier. who retired in 1977 as Executive Vice-President and Chief Scientist of RCA. decided to work for RCA because Dr. Zworykin recruited him with one question - how long would it take Dr. Hillier to build an electron microscope, while other prospective employers engaged Dr. Hillier in theoretical discussions or emphasized their good working conditions and fringe benefits.
Working under Dr. Zworykin's guidance, it took Dr. Hillier little more than three months to build the first RCA electron microscope. Coincidentally, just three years after Dr. Zworykin was elected to the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame for his development of television, Dr. Hillier was elected in 1980 for his work on the electron microscope.
For a period of years following his 1954 retirement, Dr. Zworykin directed a Medical Electronics Center at the Rockefeller Institute in New York. In this capacity, as National Chairman of the Professional Group on Medical Electronics of the Institute of Radio Engineers, as Founder-President of the International Federation for Medical Electronics and Biological Engineering, and as Member of the Board of Governors of the International Institute for Medical Electronics and Biological Engineering Paris, he worked for the development of the use of electronic methods in medicine and the life sciences.
Dr. Zworykin was often asked if, while working on television, he ever envisioned the worldwide entertainment media it became. He would reply that he hadn't, and credited Gen. Sarnoff with seeing TV as a new form of home entertainment. Dr. Zworykin would then go on to explain that in his early years he looked upon television as a system that would enable man to see things in places where his eyes couldn't reach. Thus, he was delighted with the first television pictures of the back side of the moon. And, when he visited the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in California to see the reception of pictures of Mars, he remarked, "This is what television is really for."
Dr. Zworykin curtailed his activities, spending winters in Florida, but never gave up his interest in scientific research. For many years. he was a Visiting Professor for the Center for Theoretical Studies and the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Evolution of the University of Miami in Florida. And he maintained an office at RCA Laboratories. Even at the age of 91, he would drive from his home in Princeton to his office in the David Sarnoff Research Center to read his large collection of scientific journals and reports.
In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson awarded him the United States' highest scientific honor, the National Medal of Science "for major contributions to the instruments of science, engineering, and television, and for his stimulation of the application of engineering to medicine." Including the Medal of Science. Dr. Zworykin received virtually every major scientific honor among 27 major awards and numerous others from groups throughout the world. He was elected to such prestigious American societies as the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Engineering.
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Vladimir Zworykin’s collegiate career at the St
collegiate career at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology in Russia paved the way for his career in electronics. Zworykin received his electrical engineering degree from the Institute in 1912, studying under Professor Boris Rosing, who had built an early cathode ray television in 1908. He began graduate study at the College de France, engaging in X-ray research under Professor Paul Langevin, but returned to Russia at the outbreak of World War I to serve in the Russian Signal Corps. After the war, he emigrated to the United States, and began work at the Westinghouse Electric Company in 1920. He obtained his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 1926. He patented his first television camera tube in 1923 and his Kinescope television receiver in 1924. In 1929, he went to work at RCA’s Camden, New Jersey laboratory as the director of electronic research. He improved his television camera tube and then patented the in 1931. When RCA opened its in 1941, Zworykin moved there. In 1941 he oversaw ’s invention of the electron microscope. During World War II, he directed military research on aircraft fire control, television-guided missiles, storage tubes, an radar systems. In 1954, upon his retirement from , he was named honorary vice president of the company. He served as director of the Medical Electronics Center of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research from 1954 to 1962. In 1952, Zworykin received the IEEE Edison Medal for a career of meritorious achievement. He died in Princeton, New Jersey in July 1982.
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