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John Logie Baird – A Life


Price: £25.00


By Anthony Kamm and Dr Malcolm Baird.

In January 1926 Baird was the first to publicly demonstrate real television. Other pioneering achievements followed, including the first transatlantic transmission, the first demonstrations of colour television and stereoscopic television, and the first video recordings. In the 1930s he twice televised the Derby, and was the first to demonstrate cinema television, in black and white and colour. During World War II he developed high definition and stereoscopic television in colour, and invented the first all-electronic colour television tube. He also made significant advances in radio imaging, secret signalling, fibre optics, infra-red scanning, and fast facsimile transmission.

Throughout his life he struggled with ill health and lack of funding, to the extent that he paid for his own initial research efforts and his final, heroic, and perhaps most startling developments.

This balanced, thoroughly documented and splendidly readable account throws new light not only on Baird himself, but on many of those associated with him. Truth is separated from legend, and the facts behind Baird’s autobiographical memoir, published in 1988 as Sermons, Soap and Television, are uncovered. The text of this can now be compared with a recently discovered manuscript containing his own corrections.

Fresh information is revealed about the ‘lost’ years in London and Hastings in the early 1920s, which includes for the first time not only details of the company Baird established to sell soap, but also his unconventional romance, the experiments and research undertaken at Crystal Palace and the Falkirk connection.

Special treatment is given to Baird’s troubled relationship with the BBC and, in particular, to the role played by the Corporation’s director general, Sir John Reith. There is a full account of Baird’s braver efforts to establish a presence in the USA. Also disclosed is the background to the boardroom coup which resulted in Baird being relieved of his duties as managing director of the company which he had founded.

In the light of their review of existing sources and examination of fresh evidence, the authors reach several conclusions which modify or challenge received opinion. Much of the documentation from family and other archives, including Baird’s wartime letters to his friend Sydney Moseley, extracts from the private diaries of Eustace Robb (the BBC’s first television producer), company memos and reports of the early 1930s, and many of the photographs have never before been published. Technical details are described in non-technical language, supported by diagrams.

466 pages hardback 60 illustrations

See also New Crystal Palace Matters issue 6