Baird experimenting with his first television transmitter, 1925

Baird experimenting with his first television transmitter, 1925

John Logie Baird

1888 – 1946

John Logie Baird

electrical engineer and inventor of mechanical television and pioneer of televised images.

Engineering Achievements

John Logie Baird was the first person to televise objects in motion.

He produced televised images in outline in 1924, transmitted recognisable human faces in 1925 and demonstrated the televising of moving objects in 1926 to members of the Royal Institution. He demonstrated colour television in 1928. On 30 September 1929 Baird transmitted, by arrangement with the BBC, its first experimental television broadcast using the Baird 30-line system. Later, on 22 August 1932, the first public (in the UK), 30-line television service was inaugurated by the BBC.

When the BBC's London high definition television service began in 1936, the Baird 240-line system was in competition with one promoted by Marconi Electrical and Musical Instruments (EMI), and in February 1937 the BBC adopted the Marconi EMI system exclusively. The last BBC transmission using the Baird 240-line system was sent out on 30 January 1937. Baird Television Ltd went into receivership in 1939 after BBC Television was closed down by the onset of war. Despite this, Baird continued to innovate and ultimately held 178 patents. He demonstrated 3-D television in 1942.

His Life

  1. 1888 Born in Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire on 13th August
  2. 1899 Age: 11 Educated at Larchfield Academy, Helensburgh
  3. 1906 Age: 18 Matriculated, Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College
  4. 1914 Age: 26 Diploma in Electrical Engineering The Royal Technical College, Glasgow, 1 October
  5. 1914-15 Age: 26 Attended Glasgow University as a final year BSc student in Electricity, Engineering and Natural Philosophy
  6. 1916 Age: 28 Assistant mains engineer, Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company
  7. 1916 Age: 28 Failed medical for military service
  8. 1918 Age: 30 Resigned from Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company to follow entrepreneurial ventures
  9. 1918-23 Age: 30-34 Sold, at different periods in Glasgow, West Indies and London, diverse products
  10. 1923 Age: 34 Retired to Hastings after severe illness
  11. 1925 Age: 36 Demonstrated, at Selfridge's Oxford Street store, crude outlines of objects in April
  12. 1925 Age: 36 Television Ltd registered on 11 June
  13. 1926 Age: 37 First demonstration of television at 22 Frith Street, London to about 40 members of the Royal Institution on 26 January
  14. 1927 Age: 38 Baird Television Development Company Ltd established in April
  15. 1927 Age: 38 First long-distance transmission by wire, from London to the Central Hotel, Glasgow in May
  16. 1927 Age: 38 First trans-Atlantic reception of television transmitted by radio from London to New York in February
  17. 1928 Age: 39 Delivered lecture on 'Television' to Glasgow University Engineering Society on 1 March
  18. 1928 Age: 39 Delivered lecture on 'Television' to Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland on 6 March
  19. 1928 Age: 39 Baird International Television Ltd established on 25 June
  20. 1929 Age: 41 Baird transmitted, by arrangement with the BBC, the first experimental television broadcasts using his 30-line system on 30 September
  21. 1930 Age: 41 By 1930 a total of 88 patents had been granted
  22. 1931 Age: 43 Married Margaret Cecilia Albu in New York in November
  23. 1936 Age: 48 Demonstrated 120-line theatre television on a 2.4 x 2 metre screen in December
  24. 1937 Age: 48 Last BBC transmission using Baird 240-line system on 30 January
  25. 1937 Age: 48 Elected Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 5 July
  26. 1938 Age: 49 Demonstrated large-screen colour television pictures in February
  27. 1940 Age: 52 Demonstrated 600-line colour television in December
  28. 1941 Age: 53 Demonstrated stereoscopic colour television in December
  29. 1944 Age: 56 Designed, constructed and exhibited a multi-gun colour television tube (the telechrome tube)
  30. 1946 Age: 57 Died in Bexhill, East Sussex, on 14 June and buried in Helensburgh Cemetery

His Legacy

Although Baird's system was not the one that was finally chosen by the BBC, it was Baird who led the way in television, and Baird who had the courage, imagination and determination to bring about its success. He created the spark and had the vision to predict the huge impact that television would have on the world. He is regularly cited as one of the world's great innovators and inventors. His name is synonymous with Scottish ingenuity and perseverance in engineering. In 2002 he was ranked 44 in the BBC's public poll of 100 Greatest Britons. In 2014 he was inducted into the Honor Roll of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers

More Information

Television and Me: the Memoirs of John Logie Baird. 2004. [written in 1941] Malcolm Baird, editor

John Logie Baird - a life. A Kamm and M Baird, National Museums of Scotland, 2002.

John Baird: The Romance and Tragedy of the Pioneer of Television. Sydney Moseley, Odhams, 1952

The Television Man: The Story of John L. Baird. John Rowland, Roy Publishers, 1966

Television Baird. Margaret Baird, 1973

Baird of Television: The Life Story of John Logie Baird. Ronald F. Tiltman, Arno Press, 1974

John Logie Baird: 50 Years of Television. Maurice Exwood, Institution of Electronic and Radio Engineers History of Technology Monograph. IRE, 1976

John Logie Baird and Television. Michael Hallett, Priory, 1978

British television: the formative years. R W Burns, 1986

Vision Warrior. Tom McArthur and Peter Waddell, The Orkney Press, 1990

Seeing by Wireless: The Story of Baird Television. Ray Herbert, Published by the author, 1996

John Logie Baird, Television Pioneer. Russell Burns, History of Technology Series, 28. Institution of Electrical Engineers, 2000

Restoring Baird's Image. Donald F. McLean, Institution of Electrical Engineers, 2001

The Three Dimensions of John Logie Baird. Douglas Brown, Radio Society of Great Britain, 2012.

The Achievement of Television: the quality and features of John Logie Baird's system in 1926. D F McLean, Intl J of Hist of Eng Tech, Vol 84 No 2, July 2014, 227-247.

The Great British Broadcasting Competition: a multi-disciplinary analysis of the emergence of BBC television. D F McLean, Media History, 2017.

Correspondence, notebooks, papers, photographs University of Strathclyde and University of Glasgow Archives.

Baird Television an excellent website maintained by Malcolm Baird and Iain Baird, son and grandson of John Logie Baird.

BBC 100: History of the BBC. John Logie Baird

John Logie Baird Collection at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

Helensburgh Heritage website features Baird material

A Voice in Vision ITV Play of the Week broadcast 18 Dec 1957 with Michael Gwynn as John Logie Baird

The Fools on the Hill Jack Rosenthal's 1986 TV movie of the opening night of British television, with Robert McIntosh as John Logie Baird

I Preferred Madness BBC2. 17 August 1988. In 1941, while convalescing from a heart attack, Baird dictated his autobiography. Unpublished at the time of broadcast, it forms the core of this progamme.

John Logie Baird, the Man who saw the Future BBC. 2002

An interview with Andy Andrews, aged 104, one of Baird's apprentice engineers

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has an annual John Logie Baird Memorial Lecture

One of 12 historic figures honoured in first year of Historic Scotland Commemorative Plaque Scheme.

There are 25 portraits of John Logie Baird held by the National Portrait Gallery

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry (full text available to subscribers and UK library members)

Cite Top