The Story Behind Television and the Teen Who Invented It

Tonight on American Genius, Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff share the dream to transform the future of communication, which led to the epic battle over one of the greatest innovations in history: the television.

It’s the 20th century and the world of radio is at its peak. David Sarnoff, founder of RCA, has built a radio empire–and thanks to his natural business skills–he’s become one of the greatest media moguls of all time.

See how Sarnoff conquered radio industry in this digital extra:

However, Philo Farnsworth, a young Midwestern farmboy imagines something greater. At only 15, Farnsworth begins drafting plans for the first electric television, and dedicates his life to gaining the tools to become a technological genius.

After hearing news of this young inventor’s plans for the television, the ruler of the radio empire, Sarnoff, is threatened by Farnsworth’s monumental creation. Sarnoff needs to beat his competition with a television of his own. Sarnoff is able to hire a team of engineers to create a working product that can match Farnsworth’s… and the race to invent begins.

Farnsworth has no intention of losing ownership of his idea. He has the knowledge and creative product after successfully patenting his design, but Sarnoff has the funding power to block Farnsworth from manufacturing his television with any company.

For years, the two face head-to-head with court hearings to determine who gets the right of inventor. Pressures persist as Sarnoff uses all his power to limit and stall Farnsworth from getting his product on the shelves.

Learn the true story behind the television, and watch as Farnsworth takes a stand against the ruler of radio to protect his life dream, while the unrelenting Sarnoff aims to take the credit in introducing America to this technological triumph.

The American Genius mini-series event continues tonight at 9/8c.