Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Boy Who Invented TV

Fourteen year old Philo Farnsworth loved machines.  He wanted to know everything about them. Philo fixed machines on his family's Idaho farm and read stacks of science magazines before the crack of dawn.  One such magazine contained an article called "Pictures that Fly Through the Air." While he was plowing a potato field, Philo solved a mystery that stumped inventors who were unsuccessfully trying to transmit images through the air.  Seeing the parallel lines in the potato field set Philo to see "a way to create television: breaking down images into parallel lines of light, capturing and transmitting them as electrons, then reassembling them for a viewer."  Philo goes on to eventually see his idea come to life, but with a bittersweet end.

Kathleen Krull does a terrific job of presenting complicated science topics in a simple fashion for young readers.  As with her Giants of Science series, The Boy Who Invented TV takes a highly technical subject and makes it easily understood.  Greg Couch's illustrations are unusually eye catching with a great sense of humor.

You could ask students to compare Philo Farnsworth with other inventors (Thomas Edison, Elijah McCoy) using a Venn diagram or other graphic organizer.  The Author's Note would make for a great discussion about how Farnsworth felt about television at the end of his life.  I wonder if he regretted inventing it.

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