Elma Gardner Farnsworth, 98, Who Helped Husband Develop TV, Dies

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Elma Gardner Farnsworth, who helped her husband, Philo T. Farnsworth, develop television and was among the first people whose images were transmitted on TV, died Thursday in Bountiful, Utah. She was 98.

Her death was reported by Mary Rippley of the Avalon Care Center, where Ms. Farnsworth lived.

The Farnsworths married in 1926, and Ms. Farnsworth worked by her husband's side, then fought for decades to assure his place in history after his death in 1971.

In his book "Philo T. Farnsworth: The Father of Television," Donald G. Godfrey wrote that the first human images transmitted by Mr. Farnsworth were of Ms. Farnsworth and her brother, Cliff Gardner. A 3.5-inch-square image of his wife with her eyes closed was transmitted on Oct. 19, 1929, Mr. Gardner wrote. The book lists her as the "first woman on TV."

But credit for the invention nearly escaped Mr. Farnsworth after RCA declared that the innovation was the work of its chief television engineer, Vladimir Zworykin.

In 1935, the courts ruled on Mr. Farnsworth's patent, naming him television's father. The decision was upheld on appeal, although Mr. Farnsworth continued to get little recognition.

Mr. Farnsworth gave his wife equal credit in his invention, saying, "my wife and I started this TV," according to Mr. Godfrey.

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Randll Reese Besch - 5/6/2006

It is nice to see when the woman of a marriage to a scientist is also acknowledged as a co-inventor for her work by her husband.A scientist too along with tireless advocate of her beloved husband shows a remarkable relationship both as co-workers and as a couple. Pleasing all around and something to strive for by us all.