He held his invention together with glue, rope and sealing wax

John Logie Baird (Helensburgh, Scotland, August 13, 1888 – Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, June 14, 1946)

When Scotsman John Logie Baird was twelve, in 1900, he installed a telephone line that connected his attic room to the houses of four friends. A stunt that came to light one night when a coachman was thrown off the trestle by a loose wire.

Young Baird was in frail health, but he was spry enough to build a small dynamo, driven by a waterwheel, to supply electricity to the family home. Or he managed to photograph himself sleeping in his bed.

It wasn't until he was seventeen that he was physically strong enough to go to school for the first time. He studied engineering and became fascinated by the possibility of converting light into electrical signals by means of selenium.

If a telephone can transmit sound, he thought, it must also be possible to transmit images using photoelectric selenium cells.

The First World War thwarted his plans and he became chief engineer of a power station that supplied power to shipyards and munitions factories.

Baird always suffered from cold feet and he designed himself a kind of undersocks that, according to his own words, gave coolness in the summer and warmth in the winter. Forced by success, he founded his own company. A new type of shoe polish – Osmo – was equally successful.

But his frail constitution proved no match for the harsh climate of the British Isles. He fell ill again, sold his business and moved to Trinidad in the Caribbean. For years he and a friend earned their living with the production of marmalade.

In 1922, the tall, red-haired Scotsman arrived in London again: he was 34 years old, he had no money and no job, he suffered from malaria and had only a batch of homemade Caribbean marmalade in his possession.

He was too ill to do anything and the doctor prescribed him a rest cure in the southern English seaside resort of Hastings. As always, he invented all kinds of things there, razor blades made of glass, for example, which only caused a bloodied face. Or pneumatic shoes that explode with a loud bang.

After a ten-year hiatus, he started thinking about sending images again. He knew what he had to do: divide the image into small spots of light, bright or dark, transmit them as electrical impulses, and reassemble them into one image in a receiver.

With a tea chest, a small motor, a cardboard disc with holes around the edge, a projection lamp, a biscuit tin with lenses, parts of a wireless telegraph, darning needles, flashlight batteries and pieces of wood, he set to work.

Glue, string, sealing wax and many meters of electrical wires held the whole mess together. In April 1924 he obtained his first image. In October 1925 he gave a spectacular demonstration in London. Immediately all the big ones fired
power companies wake up.

But the Scottish eccentric continued on his own.

John Logie Baird, with help from the BBC, brought the first authentic television programmes, the first images of the Derby horse races and theater plays, he developed the first color TV and showed television on a giant screen in cinemas.

Of course he could not win the commercial race against the big corporations on his own. When he died in 1946, his flip-flop television was hopelessly obsolete. But he had shown everyone the way, including the Americans and the Japanese.

He left his South African wife and two children a paltry £7,000. Those who want to pay tribute to him can go to Soho, London, number 22 Frith Street, where he gave his first demonstration.