John Logie Baird was born on 13 August, 1888 in Helensburgh, son of a Church of Scotland minister. Though frequently ill, which he was throughout his life, he had by the time he was 14 built a private telephone exchange in his bedroom to communicate with his friends by overhead lines, installed electric light in his parents' home (the first house in the town to have it) and begun to experiment with television.
Extracts from the accompanying The Greatest Scot television programme are being added to these biographical notes as the programme is broadcast between November 9 and 13. If you live outside the UK, you will not be able to see these, but you may enjoy other videos about some of the subjects which are available via links in the text. Here, for example, is a video demonstrating how John Logie Baird's television worked.
Logie Baird studied electrical engineering at the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Technology and, at the beginning of the First World War, in which he was unfit to serve, he became an engineer with a power company. In 1917, he set up a one-man business selling the Baird Undersock, an item of his own invention.
Because of illness, he had in 1923 to give up a successful business in London selling soap. Recuperating in Hastings, he managed that same year to transmit a rudimentary television image by means of an apparatus constructed of odds and ends. Shortly afterwards he was experimenting also with a system of radio imaging which led to what became radar in the Second World War.
On 26 January 1926, in his attic laboratory in London, he gave the first demonstration of true television. The same year, 40 members of the Royal Institution inspected his new process, noctovision, which enabled a subject to be scanned in the dark. He also patented phonovision, the world's first video recording apparatus. In 1927, he sent his images 435 miles to Glasgow by ordinary telephone line.
In 1928, his annus mirabilis, he transmitted television pictures to New York, and then to the ship in mid-Atlantic bringing back his receiving apparatus. He also successfully demonstrated daylight television, colour television, and stereoscopic television.
He masterminded the first outside broadcast and the first transmission of a sporting event (the Derby) in 1931. As managing director of Baird Television Ltd, he negotiated with the BBC and with the government for the first BBC television broadcasts, which ran from 1929 to 1935, using a system devised by himself. He ceased to be involved with his company's day-to-day affairs in 1933, and was thus not a member of the team which failed to win the BBC contract in 1936.
During the Second World War, when television was shut down, he stayed in London, and at his own expense invented and gave the first public demonstrations of systems for colour television with cathode ray tube, high-definition colour television and stereoscopic television in colour, and an all-electronic colour receiver, as well as a high-speed facsimile transmission.
He died in 1946, a week after the Victory Parade was shown on a large-screen television receiver of his own design and construction.