John Logie Baird (1888-1946)

John Logie Baird with a telechrome device, 1942. Credits: Science Museum/SSPL

Scottish inventor John Logie Baird was the first person to demonstrate a working television system. He was born in Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland, and studied at the University of Glasgow, though he never graduated as his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. After the war he started a business, but following a bout of ill health he moved to Hastings on England’s south coast in 1923.

Baird rented a workshop and set about trying to televise an image using mechanical scanning. His experiments were based on the work of a number of inventors before him, including Arthur Korn and Paul Nipkow. Baird cobbled together his apparatus - using hatboxes, scissors and knitting needles - and in 1924 was able to transmit a silhouetted image a few feet. He moved to Soho, London to continue his work.

His first demonstration of true television took place on 27 January 1926 before an audience of 50 scientists at the Royal Institution in London. By 1927 he had transmitted television over 700 km (435 miles) of telephone lines between London and Glasgow. By 1928 he had succeeded in demonstrating colour television.

Baird’s mechanical television system was employed by the BBC, though by the mid-1930s it was outperformed by electronic systems developed in the USA. He continued his research on stereoscopic and large-screen television until his death in Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex.