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Armstrong, Edwin Howard (18 December 1890–31 January 1954), electrical engineer and inventor, was born in New York City, the son of John Armstrong, a publisher, and Emily Smith, a teacher. Armstrong attended public schools in New York City and in Yonkers, New York, where the family moved in 1900. Fascinated by machinery, he enjoyed repairing broken toys for friends and later learned to repair automobiles. In his teens he was impressed by ...

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de Forest, Lee (26 August 1873–30 June 1961), radio engineer and inventor, was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the son of Henry Swift de Forest, a Congregational minister, and Anna Margaret Robbins. He grew up in Iowa and (after 1879) Talladega, Alabama, where his father was president of the Talladega College for Negroes....

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Farnsworth, Philo Taylor (19 August 1906–11 March 1971), electronic television inventor, was born in Indian Creek (now Manderfield), near Beaver, Utah, the son of Lewis Edwin Farnsworth and Serena Amanda Bastian, farmers. After moving several times, the family eventually settled on a ranch near Rigby, Idaho. As a boy, Farnsworth became fascinated by the photoelectric cell and the cathode-ray tube, and at the age of fifteen he devised a system for the all-electronic transmissions of images over distances (that is, television) by combining the two devices. In February 1922 he showed a sketch of his design to his high school chemistry teacher, who provided key testimony more than a decade later in a television priority patent suit Farnsworth launched against the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). After high school Farnsworth joined the navy but was discharged on the advice of the base chaplain so that he might continue his academic studies. To support himself while pursuing his engineering training, Farnsworth established a radio repair shop in Salt Lake City in 1926 in partnership with Clifford Gardner. Their small business enabled him to enroll in courses at Brigham Young University and the University of Utah. On 27 May 1926 he married Elma “Pem” Gardner, sister of his partner. The couple had four children....

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Fessenden, Reginald Aubrey (06 October 1866–22 July 1932), inventor, was born in East Bolton, Quebec, Canada, the son of Elisha Joseph Fessenden, an Anglican clergyman, and Clementina Trenholme. Fessenden spent his earliest years at Bolton Centre, Quebec, and Fergus, Ontario. From a young age he showed a keen interest in invention and science and filled every free moment with the reading of scientific texts, being encouraged in this pursuit by his uncle, Cortez Fessenden, a teacher of science and mathematics. At the age of seven Fessenden read Gibbon’s ...

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Goldmark, Peter Carl (02 December 1906–07 December 1977), inventor, was born in Budapest, Hungary, the son of Alexander Goldmark, a hatmaker, and Emmy (maiden name unknown). In 1919 Goldmark’s family fled to Vienna, Austria, to escape the Communist revolution in Hungary. Goldmark studied for a year at the Berlin Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg, Germany, and then transferred to the Physical Institute of Vienna, where he received his B.Sc. in 1930 and his Ph.D. in physics in 1931....

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Kalmus, Herbert Thomas (09 November 1881–11 July 1963), and Natalie Mabelle Dunfee Kalmus (1883–15 November 1965), cinematographer, were born, respectively, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Norfolk, Virginia. Herbert was the son of Benjamin G. Kalmus and Ada Isabella Gurney, musicians. Natalie was the daughter of George Kayser Dunfee (wife’s name unknown). Herbert attended schools in Boston and intended to become a concert pianist, but he gave up the idea when he injured his fingers playing baseball. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he received a B.S. in physics in 1904. He married Natalie in 1902; they had no children. When very young Natalie had moved with her parents to Boston. She attended Stetson University in Florida, the Boston School of Art, and the Curry School of Expressionism in Boston....

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See Kalmus, Herbert Thomas

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Atwater Kent. Standing by radio in the Hamilton Hotel, Washington, DC. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109738).

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Kent, Atwater (03 December 1873–04 March 1949), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Burlington, Vermont, the son of Prentiss J. Kent, a physician, and Mary Elizabeth Atwater. His first name was actually Arthur, but he used his middle name alone throughout his life. He attended Wooster Polytechnic Institute from 1895 to 1897 but left school to begin a manufacturing business and did not graduate....

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Barbara Bennett Peterson

Lamarr, Hedy (09 November 1913–19 January 2000), actress, was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria, the daughter of Emil Kiesler, a director of the Bank of Vienna, and Gertrude Kiesler (maiden name unknown), a concert pianist. She was of Jewish extraction on both sides of her family, which proved fateful for her life and her career. As a child, she took ballet and piano lessons and was educated by tutors as well as at private schools. In 1929 she studied design in a Viennese finishing school. At ...

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Hedy Lamarr. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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Leigh, Vivien (05 November 1913–08 July 1967), actress, was born Vivian Mary Hartley in Darjeeling, India, the daughter of Ernest Richard Hartley, a junior partner in a brokerage firm, and Gertrude Robinson. The family spent half the year in India and the other half in England until 1920, when they moved back to England permanently. Leigh was enrolled in the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton. There she discovered her lifelong passion for acting when, at age eight, she appeared as a fairy in a school production of ...

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Popeil, Samuel J. (22 January 1915–15 July 1984), inventor and manufacturer, was born in New York City, the son of a garment worker; his parents’ names are unknown. Little else is known about his childhood and early education, but Popeil’s career training came through the family. Several of his uncles worked as product demonstrators in New York department stores and flea markets, selling potato peelers, cheese slicers, and other household gadgets....

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Porter, Edwin Stanton (21 April 1870–30 April 1941), pioneer director-producer-inventor of cinema, was born in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Richard Porter, a merchant, and Mary Jane Clark. Porter received his education in the public schools of Connellsville. He worked at various jobs, including plumber, exhibition skater, sign painter, tailor, and telegrapher. In 1893 Porter enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he found his calling in working with electrical machines. In conjunction with ...

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Tilyou, George Cornelius (03 February 1862–30 November 1914), amusement park entrepreneur and inventor, was born in New York City, the son of Peter Augustus Tilyou, a hotel proprietor, and Ellen Mahoney. Of Huguenot heritage, his father owned the Surf House, one of the first resort hotels at Coney Island. The family moved to Coney Island when George was three years old, and he subsequently attended the Gravesend and Brooklyn, New York, public schools. Even as a youth, the boy’s talents as an amusement genius and showman were evident. At the age of fourteen, inspired by publicity surrounding the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition of 1876, he set up a stand at Coney Island, selling bottles of seawater and boxes of beach sand for twenty-five cents each. At seventeen he began his professional career with his own Coney Island real estate business operating out of two bathhouses joined together, and he also began publishing his own newspaper, ...

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Waller, Frederic (10 March 1886–18 May 1954), inventor and motion picture technician, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Frederic Waller, a commercial photographer, and Katherine Stearns. Waller was educated at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, which he left at age fourteen when he began working in his father’s photographic studio. In 1905 he married Irene Seymour, with whom he had two children; the marriage ended in divorce in 1919. In 1920 Waller married Grace Fortescue Hubbard; the childless marriage ended with her death in 1941. His third wife, Doris Barber Caron, whom he married in 1942, outlived him; they also had no children....

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Zworykin, Vladimir Kosma (30 July 1889–29 July 1982), scientist and television pioneer, was born in Murom, Russia, the son of Kosma A. Zworykin, a wealthy businessman, and Elaine Zworykin, a distant cousin of her husband. As a child, Zworykin spent his summers horseback riding, hunting, and spending time in his favorite hiding places along the banks of the Oka River, but when it came time for school he enrolled in the local Gymnasium and ...