The Preface will explain the origins of this hybrid memoir-biography. In it, Dr. Zworykin offers his perspective not only on the invention of electronic television but on his progress through the revolutionary ferment and wars in Russia between 1905 and 1920. A member of Russia’s elite, Zworykin made his way from the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, to service on the Eastern Front in World War I, to negotiating his safety with various parties across his enormous homeland during Russia’s Civil War. His work on television at Westinghouse’s research laboratory in the 1920s reveals the advantages and drawbacks of inventing in a corporate environment for a “lone inventor,” which Zworykin certainly was. Westinghouse offered skilled staff, state-of-the-art equipment, and legal support, but its executives also demanded that Zworykin work on projects more immediately profitable to the company. His demonstration of electronic television in 1924 is confirmed by Otto Schairer’s unpublished 1944 memoir, also held by the David Sarnoff Library. As to claims to invention, Zworykin only emphasizes his contributions, particularly on the importance of the storage principle for all effective video imaging, and explains the physical flaw in Philo Farnsworth’s image dissector.
Although Albert Abramson drew on Zworykin’s typescript for his scholarly biography (Zworykin: Pioneer of Television, University of Illinois Press, 1995), this is the first time the complete memoir has been available, supported here by Olessi’s framework. Readers will notice that dates appear in only the most general terms, often in the chapter heading. They should treat details, as with all historical documents and sources, with care and cross-examination.
Thanks to Endicott College intern Bridgett Endicott and volunteer Janet Swartz, one known copy has been scanned and the text converted to a Microsoft Word document, reformatted, and edited as an .html file. Editing consisted of updating and standardizing the transliteration of certain Russian words (Zworykin often transliterated to a French-based Roman alphabet: e.g., Mourom for Murom or Мупом); uncapitalizing nouns (retained for his Mother and Father, not for other titles); filling in names (Zworykin sometimes initialed for the sake of anonymity); linking names and terms to appropriate pages on the internet; and division of some lengthier paragraphs.
The numbers in parentheses indicate the end of each page in the original text.
The figures indicated in Chapters I and II refer to unknown illustrations.
The asterisks in Chapters I had no related note in the typescript.
We would like to thank Elaine Vladimirovna Zworykin Knudsen, her daughter Sandra Knudsen, and Fred Olessi for permission to reproduce this memoir.
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