BAIRD, John Logie (1888-1946)
Plaque erected in 1951 by London County Council at 22 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4RP, City of Westminster
Industry and Invention, Science
IN 1926 IN THIS HOUSE JOHN LOGIE BAIRD 1888-1946 FIRST DEMONSTRATED TELEVISION
John Logie Baird also has a blue plaque at his home in Sydenham, at 3 Crescent Wood Road.
The engineer and inventor John Logie Baird gave the world’s first demonstration of a working television at 22 Frith Street in Soho in January 1926. He used two attic rooms in the property as his laboratory from November 1924 to February 1926.
THE INVENTION OF TELEVISION
Born in Scotland, Baird studied electrical engineering in Glasgow, and in 1922 began to formulate ideas about how to transmit and receive pictures. With only limited resources, he set about investigating his theories, and by 1925 had made excellent progress. In March of that year, he began a three-week series of demonstrations of moving silhouette images at Selfridge’s department store in Oxford Street.
On 2 October, working from his Frith Street laboratory, Baird managed to transmit the first television picture with tone gradation, first using the head of a ventriloquist’s dummy and then moving on to a human face. Baird’s subject was William Edward Taynton, a 20-year-old office boy, who later recalled:
Mr Baird rushed downstairs in baggy flannels, a pair of carpet slippers, and no socks. He almost dragged me into his workroom and sat me in front of his machine, a mass of wires and enormous electric light bulbs.
THE ‘TELEVISOR’ REVEALED
On 26 January 1926 Baird repeated his experiment, this time making a formal demonstration of his ‘televisor’ in front of 40 members of the Royal Institution. A Times journalist reported that the image was:
faint and often blurred, but substantiated a claim that through the ‘Televisor’ … it is possible to transmit and reproduce instantly the details of movement, and such things as the play of expression on the face.
In early 1927 the world’s first television sets were offered for sale in Selfridge’s and in 1928 Baird sent a television picture across the Atlantic and also demonstrated colour television for the first time. The BBC inaugurated the country’s first 30-line television service in August 1932 using Baird’s mechanical system, but it was replaced in 1937 by a rival electronic system developed by the Marconi–EMI corporation.
William Taynton, the first person to be televised, was present when Baird’s plaque at 22 Frith Street was unveiled on the 25th anniversary of the demonstration. Baird has a second plaque at 3 Crescent Wood Road in Sydenham, where he lived from 1933 until 1945.