Did you know?

While he was with the Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company, John Logie Baird tried to make artificial diamonds.

He did this by electrically exploding a rod of carbon embedded in concrete contained in a large iron pot. In the process, he cut the local power supply and very nearly lost his job.

John Logie Baird (1888-1946)


John Logie Baird is credited with being the first person to demonstrate a working television.

He first started experimenting with television using various odds and ends, including:

  • A coffin lid
  • Tea chests
  • Biscuit tins
  • Bicycle lamps
  • A rotating disk made from cardboard, string and sealing wax.

Baird's progress in developing television:

  • 1924: Transmitted the image of a Maltese cross over a distance of 10 feet with his make-shift invention.
  • 1925: Demonstrated his invention to the public in Selfridge's department store in Oxford Street, London.
  • 1926: Presented a fully working prototype of mechanical television to members of the Royal Institution. This was the first demonstration to show moving human faces with tonal gradations.
  • 1927: Granted a transmitting licence by the Post Office and founded the Baird Television Development Company.
  • 1929: The German post office gave Baird facilities to test his mechanical system.
  • 1932: The Derby was televised live from Epsom and shown to a theatre audience 14 miles away.
  • 1941: Developed and demonstrated a high definition colour and stereoscopic (3D) television system.
  • 1944: Developed and demonstrated the 'Telechrome', which was the first colour cathode ray tube in the world.

Phonovision and Noctovision

Detail from illustration of infra-red rays

Baird developed an experimental process for recording a television signal on phonograph records in the late 1920s in London.

This was an early type of video recorder.

In 1926, Baird developed a process using the infra-red part of the spectrum. This enables objects to be seen in the dark. He called it 'Noctovision'.

Late that year, he patented a system of television in which the subject was 'illuminated' by very short radio waves instead of light. This system has been compared to radar.

Fibre optics

At the same time as developing television, Baird experimented in transmitting and receiving pictures using electricity.

He continued his research using everyday objects like biscuit tins, darning needles and cardboard.

Working with bundles of drinking straws, Baird discovered the principle of fibre optics, which was later to revolutionise telecommunications.

Fibre optics (optical fibres) are long, thin strands of very pure glass about the diameter of a human hair. They are arranged in bundles called optical cables and used to transmit light signals over long distances.

Thermal undersocks and pneumatic shoes

Inspired by pneumatic tyres, Baird attempted to make pneumatic shoes.

His prototype contained semi-inflated balloons which burst.

He also invented a thermal undersock – the Baird undersock – which was moderately successful.

Baird suffered from cold feet. After a number of trials, he found that a sprinkling of borax inside the sock provided warmth.

Link to Televisor image Link to apparatus illustration Link to illustration of infra-red rays Link to Derby illustration Link to cinema audience illustration
Portrait of John Logie Baird