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Vladimir Kosma Zworykin

Born: 1889
Birthplace: Murom, Russia

Cathode ray tube—Zworykin invented the iconoscope, a television transmitting tube and the
kinescope, a cathode ray tube that projects pictures it receives onto a screen. He also invented
an infrared image tube and helped develop an electron microscope. (1977)

Died: 1982

Zworykin, Vladimir Kosma (zwô'rikin) [key], 1889–1982, American physicist, b. Russia, educated
in Russia, at the Collège de France, and at the Univ. of Pittsburgh (Ph.D., 1926). He became an
American citizen in 1924. On the staff of the Radio Corp. of America after 1929, he became vice
president and technical consultant of the corporation in 1947 and honorary vice president and
consultant in 1954. In recognition of his many achievements he was awarded the National Medal
of Science in 1967. His important researches in electronics enabled him to develop with his
coworkers the iconoscope, a scanning tube for the television camera, and the kinescope, a
cathode-ray tube in the television receiving apparatus. A group under his direction produced
(1939) an electron microscope. Zworykin is coauthor of Photocells and Their Application (1930,
rev. ed. 1934), Television (1940), Electron Optics and the Electron Microscope (1945),
Photoelectricity and Its Application (1949), and Television in Science and Industry (1958).

Vladimir Zworykin 1889-1982

From Mary Bellis,
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"I hate what they've done to my child...I would never let my own children watch it." -
Vladimir Zworykin on his feelings about watching television.

Importance of Kinescope and Iconoscope

Russian inventor, Vladimir Zworykin invented the cathode-ray tube called the kinescope
in 1929. The kinescope tube was sorely needed for television. Zworykin was one of the
first to demonstrate a television system with all the features of modern picture tubes.

Zworykin also invented the iconoscope in 1923 - a tube for television transmission used
in the first cameras. The iconoscope was later replaced but it laid the foundations for
early television cameras.

Vladimir Zworykin - Background

Vladimir Zworykin was born in Murom, 200 miles east of Moscow, and studied electrical
engineering at the Imperial Institute of Technology.
Boris Rosing, a professor in charge of laboratory projects, tutored Zworykin and
introduced his student to his experiments of transmitting pictures by wire. Together they
experimented with a very early cathode-ray tube, developed in Germany by Karl
Ferdinand Braun.

Rosing and Zworykin exhibited a television system in 1910, using a mechanical scanner
in the transmitter and the electronic Braun tube in the receiver.

Rosing disappeared during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Zworykin escaped and
briefly studied X-rays under Paul Langevin in Paris, before moving to the United States
in 1919, to work at the Westinghouse laboratory in Pittsburgh.

On November 18, 1929, at a convention of radio engineers, Zworykin demonstrated a

television receiver containing his kinescope.

Radio Corporation of America

Vladimir Zworykin was transferred by Westinghouse to work for the Radio Corporation
of America (RCA) in Camden, New Jersey, as the new director of the Electronic
Research Laboratory. RCA owned most of Westinghouse at that time and had just bought
the Jenkin's Television Company, makers of mechanical television systems, in order to
receive their patents (see C. F. Jenkins).

Zworykin made improvements to his iconoscope, RCA funded his research to the tune of
$150,000. The further improvements allegedly used an imaging section which was
similar to Philo Farnsworth's patented dissector. Patent litigation forced RCA to start
paying Farnsworth royalties.

Vladimir Kosma Zworykin

born July 30, 1889, Murom, Russia
died July 29, 1982, Princeton, N.J., U.S.A.

Russian-born U.S. electronic engineer, inventor of iconoscope and

kinescope (the first transmitter and receiver for TV), and the father of
modern television. Most people think of television as a development of
the mid-20th century. But as early as 1929 Russian inventor Vladimir
Kosma Zworykin was demonstrating a system with all the features of
modern picture tubes.
Born in Murom, 200 miles east of Moscow, Zworykin was a son of a wealthy merchant,
and had an aptitude for science and technology. Zworykin at age nine started spending
summers as an apprentice aboard the boats his father operated on the Oka River. He
eagerly helped repair electrical equipment, and it soon became apparent that he was more
interested in electricity than anything nautical. At the Imperial Institute of Technology,
Boris Rosing, a professor in charge of laboratory projects, became friendly with the
young student engineer and let him work on some of his private projects. Rosing was
trying to transmit pictures by wire in his own physics laboratory. He and his young
assistant experimented with a primitive cathode-ray tube (CRT), developed in Germany
by Karl Ferdinand Braun. In 1910 Rosing exhibited a television system, using a
mechanical scanner in the transmitter and the electronic Braun tube in the receiver. The
system was primitive but it was more electronic than mechanical. Rosing didn't have
much better luck with his CRT-based television system, though it won a gold medal from
the Russian Technical Society in 1912. The real importance of the work was that it left
his student Zworykin with a deep interest in the possibilities of the CRT and electron
scanning for television systems.

The lure of theoretical physics drew Zworykin to Paris after he graduated the St.
Petersburg Institute of Technology with honors and a scholarship in electrical
engineering in 1912. There he studied X-rays under Paul Langevin at the Collegè de
France (1912-1914), in Paris. Then he went to Berlin to continue studies in physics.
When the First World War broke out in August 1914, he was evicted from Germany as
an enemy alien and returned to Russia.

Zworykin served during World War I in the Russian Signal Corps. In 1916 Zworykin
married Tatiana Vasilieff (later they were divorced) and they had two children. Rosing
disappeared during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Soon Zworykin also decided to
leave Russia for the United States. He emigrated to the United States in 1919 and became
a naturalized citizen in 1924.

Just after his arrival to the U.S.A. (1919-1920) Zworykin

was a bookkeeper and a financial agent of Russian Embassy
in Washington, D.C. In 1920, Zworykin joined
Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh to work on
the development of radio tubes and photocells. While there,
he earned his Ph.D. in physics at the University of
Pittsburgh and wrote his dissertation on improving
photoelectric cells. Zworykin was determined to build an
Young Vladimir K. Zworykin electronic imaging tube.
at Westinghouse 1920's

After several years of work, he managed to devise a photosensitive plate consisting of

tiny droplets of potassium hydride deposited on an insulating substrate of oxidized
aluminum. Light falling on the potassium hydride droplets knocked electrons out of them,
leaving them with a positive charge. Focusing a image on the plate through a lens left an
electrical pattern on the plate that matched the scene. To read out the pattern of electrical
charges, Zworykin took electron gun technology from the CRT and used it to scan across
the photosensitive plate. When the electron beam hit a positively charged potassium
hydride droplet, the current in the beam increased. The increase in current could be
amplified and transmitted.

But electronic television's development captured his attention. Based on pioneering

efforts of Westinghouse in radio, he tried to convince the company to do research in
television. Turning down an offer from Warner Brothers, Zworykin worked nights,
fashioning his own crude television system.

In December 1923 he applied for a

patent for the iconoscope, which
produced pictures by scanning images.
Zworykin called his tube the
iconoscope (literally "a viewer of
icons"). However, after demonstrating
his new system to Westinghouse
executives, they decided not to pursue
his research. Zworykin describes his
1923 demonstration as "scarcely
impressive". Westinghouse officials
were not prepared to base an
investment in television on such a
flimsy system. The companys
suggestion was that Zworykin devote
his time to more practical endeavours.
Undeterred, Zworykin continued in his
off hours to perfect his system. He was
so persistent that the laboratory guard
was instructed to send him home a 2:00
in the morning if the lights of the
laboratory were still on. During this
time Zworykin managed to develop a
more sophisticated picture tube called
the kinescope which serves as the basis
of the television display tubes in use
today. Within the year he applied for a
patent for the kinescope, which
reproduced those scanned images on a
Zworykin's 1923 patent
picture tube.
These two inventions (iconoscope as
a transmitter and kinescope as a
receiver) formed the first all-
electronic television system. Early
conceptions of television focused on
a mechanical scanning system with
motors and large rotating disks. This
type of television generally
produced a picture only about one
inch square. It was heavy, bulky
equipment and certainly not
practical for home use. All future
television systems would be based
Scheme of early television picture tube on Zworykin's 1923 patent. He also
("kinescope") 1935 developed a colour-television
system, for which he received a
patent in 1928.

On November 18, 1929, at convention of radio engineers in

Pittsburgh, Zworykin demonstrated a television receiver
containing his 'kinescope,' a cathode-ray tube. Zworykin
demonstrated his all-electronic television system a full 10
years before it was introduced to the public at the 1939 New
York World's Fair. Zworykin's all electronic television
system demonstrated the limitations of the mechanical
television system. In attendance was David Sarnoff,
president of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). He
was greatly impressed by the television presentation and
decided to hire Zworykin to develop his television system
for RCA.

Zworykin was transferred by Westinghouse to work for the Radio Corporation of

America (RCA) in Camden, New Jersey, as the new director of the Electronic Research
Laboratory. RCA owned most of Westinghouse at that time and had just bought the
Jenkin's Television Company, makers of mechanical television systems, in order to
receive their patents.
Vladimir Zworykin demonstrates
Zworykin, 1929 electronic television, 1929

Teamed with David Sarnoff at RCA, Zworykin was leading the

development of electronic television. When Zworykin started at
RCA his system was scanning 50 lines. Experimental broadcasts
started in 1930 first using a mechanical camera transmitting at 120
lines. By 1933 a complete electronic system was being employed
with a resolution of 240 lines. Reportedly, Zworykin told RCA
president David Sarnoff that it would take $100,000 to perfect
television. Sarnoff later told the New York Times, "RCA spent $50
million before we ever got a penny back from TV."

During the first half of 1932, an experimental television system had been used in New
York using a studio scanning apparatus. This consisted of a mechanical disk, flying-spot
type, for an image of 120 lines. Even for small areas of coverage and for 120 lines, the
resulting signal amplitude was unsatisfactory. In the Camden system, an iconoscope was
used as the pick-up device. The use of the iconoscope permitted transmission of greater
detail, outdoor pick-up, and wider areas of coverage in the studio. Experience indicated
that it provided a new degree of flexibility in pick-up performance, thereby removing one
of the most technical obstacles to television.

After many years of research and development an all-electronic television system

emerged from the laboratory in 1933 for actual field tests. These tests were carried out at
Camden (New Jersey), using a video transmitter and connected to it by a coaxial line.
Iconoscopes (television cameras) were used to pick up scenes both in the studio and out-
of-doors. A scanning pattern of 240 lines made it possible to obtain a picture with good
definition, but as the frame frequency was 24 cycles, without interlacing , flicker was
quite noticeable. The following year (1934) the number of lines was increased to 343, and
an interlaced pattern having a field frequency of 60 cycles and a repetition rate of 30
frames per second was adopted. The results of these tests were so satisfactory that it was
decided to continue them in New York City, the site of earlier RCA tests using a
mechanical scanner. The advantage of the new location was that transmission studies
under more nearly the conditions encountered in actual broadcasts were possible, in
particular, with respect to noise and reflection from buildings. This move was made in
1935, tests followed the following year. The New York studios were located in Radio
City. The transmitter was installed in one of the upper floors of the Empire State
Building, with the antenna on the mooring mast, 1285 feet above street level. Two links
interconnect the studio and transmitter. One of these is an underground coaxial cable
approximately a mile in length. An ultra-high-frequency radio relay link operating at 177
megacycles serves as an alternative for interconnecting the two units. In order to increase
the flexibility of the system, and to permit outdoor and indoor pickup from remote points,
a mobile unit consisting of a pickup truck and transmitter, which operated at 177
megacycles, was placed in service in 1938. Approximately one hundred receivers were
built and located at various points within a radius of 50 miles of the transmitter. These,
together with field strength measurements, gave detailed information as to the effect of
the terrain on the received pictures. They also facilitated obtaining data on the reaction of
a great variety of people to different types of programs.

Earliest screen images of Dr. V. K. Zworykin, 1933

Zworykin was not alone. By 1934 two British electronic firms, EMI and Marconi, created
an all-electronic television system. They used the Orthicon camera tube invented by an
American company, RCA. This electronic system was officially adopted by the BBC in
1936. It consisted of 405 scanning lines, changing at twenty five frames per second.
The further improvements allegedly used
an imaging section which was similar to
Philo Farnsworth's patented dissector.
Patent litigation forced RCA to start paying
Farnsworth royalties. Both Farnsworth and
Zworykin, working separately, made great
advances towards commercial television
and affordable TV sets. By 1935, both were
broadcasting intermittently, using all-
electronic systems. But Baird Television
was first in 1928 with an all mechanical
television system.
Screen image of Dr. V. K. Zworykin

Dr. Zworykin at his desk at Camden, N.J., 1934

At the time, very few people had television sets and the viewing experience was less than
impressive. The small audience of viewers was watching a blurry picture on a 2 or 3 inch
screen. The future of television looked bleak, but the competition for dominance in
television broadcasting was hot.

1932, August, Dr. Zworykin (at right) and

unknown assistants ready the iconoscope 1934 Dr. Zworykin being broadcast by his
with lens and mirror to capture a solar iconoscope

By 1939, RCA and Zworykin were ready for

regular programming and they kicked it all off by
televising the World's Fair in New York. Franklin
Roosevelt, present at the creation of RCA and a
frequent speaker on radio, became the first
president to be seen on television when the fair's
opening ceremonies were telecast ten days later.
Things moved quickly, and in 1941 the National
Television Standards Committee (NTSC) decided
it was time to write guidelines for television
transmission in the United States. Five months
later, all 22 of the nation's television stations
converted to the new electronic standards.
Zworykin at RCA with Iconoscope
In the early years, during the Great Depression, television sets
were too expensive for most of the public. When prices
eventually dropped, the U.S. was knee-deep in World War
Two. But when a new age dawned after the war, the time was
right for the Golden Age of Television. Unfortunately,
everyone had to watch it in black and white.

Zworykin's television system provided the impetus for the

development of modern television as an entertainment and
education medium. Although ultimately replaced by the
orthicon and image orthicon tubes, the iconoscope was the
basis for further important developments in television cameras.
The modern television picture tube is basically Zworykin's

In later life Zworykin lamented the way television had

been abused to titillate and trivialize subjects rather
than for the educational and cultural enrichment of
audiences. "I hate what they've done to my child... I
would never let my own children watch it." - Zworykin
on his feelings about watching television.

His other developments in electronics include an early form of the electric eye and
innovations in the electron microscope. His work led to text readers, electric eyes used in
security systems and garage door openers, and electronically-controlled missiles and
vehicles. Working with James Hiller, Zworykin also began to apply television technology
to microscopy, which led to RCA's development of the electron microscope in 1939. In
1930, Zworykin's experiments with G.A. Morton on infrared rays led to the development
of night-seeing devices. His electron image tube, sensitive to infrared light, was the basis
for the sniperscope and the snooperscope, devices first used in World War II for seeing in
the dark. His secondary-emission multiplier was used in the scintillation counter, one of
the most sensitive of radiation detectors. During World War II he advised several defense
organizations, and immediately after the war, he worked with Princeton professor John
von Neumann to develop computer applications for accurate weather forecasting. In 1957
Zworykin patented a device that used ultraviolet light and television to throw a colour
picture of living cells on a screen. This paved the way for new biological investigations to
take place.

Iconoscope, model 1846, was used in a television guided bomb during the latter part
of WW2.

GB-4 being dropped from a B-17

The GB-4 guided bomb

Army officer piloting GB-4 to it's target

RCA engineer showing 1846 iconoscope
camera used in bomb

Insides of the camera, iconoscope 1846

outlined in red can be seen at left with Front view of camera with sketch of 1846
deflection yoke and lens iconoscope tube it used
General view of the camera used in the Insides the camera - iconoscope can be
bomb seen

In 1951 Dr. Vladimir Zworykin married physician, Dr.

Katherine Polevitzky. She had recently become a widow of
the former mayor of Murmansk, Russia. It was the second
marriage for both. Dr. Zworykin had known Katherine at
least 20 years before their marriage. In 1933 he and 3
friends, including Loren Jones had purchased an open
cockpit biplane and obtained his pilots license. He flew
over Taunton Lakes and took aerial photographs for a
future lakefront home he had planned. This home was very
close to the residence of two other Russian refugees,
Dr. V.K. Zworykin and his
Katherine and Igor Polevitzky.
Dr. Katherine Polevitzky,
November, 1951
Katherine and Vladimir also visited
Australia during this worldwide tour and
Dr. Zworykin spoke at Melbourne
University on the new Vidicon. They both
attended medical lectures as well while on
their honeymoon.

Dr. Zworykin, Melbourne, December, 1951

Television Monitor showing a Melbourne Close up of television monitor

streetscape, Melbourne, December, 1951 showing a Melbourne streetscape,
Melbourne, December, 1951

After retiring from RCA in 1954, he was named an honorary vice president of RCA and
its technical consultant. He was also appointed director of the Rockefeller Institute for
Medical Research (now Rockefeller University) in New York and worked on
electronically based medical applications.

Zworykin received numerous awards related to these inventions, especially television.

They included the Institute of Radio Engineers' Morris Liebmann Memorial prize in
1934; the American Institute of Electrical Engineers' highest honor in 1952, and the
Edison Medal. In 1967 the National Academy of Sciences awarded him the National
Medal of Science for his contributions to the instruments of science, engineering, and
television and for his stimulation of the application of engineering to medicine. He was
also founder-president of the International Federation for Medical Electronics and
Biological Engineering, a recipient of the Faraday Medal from Great Britain (1965) and
the U.S. Presidential Medal of Science (1966), and a member of the U.S. National Hall of
Fame from 1977.

Zworykin died in Princeton, New Jersey, 29 July 1982.

Iconoscope was the first electronic camera tube

The iconoscope is a type of camera
tube that is no longer used, since it
is not as sensitive as the image
orthicon and its images are subject
to uneven shading and flare. But it
is well suited to introduce the
concepts of electron image storage
and scanning in simple form. The
iconoscope is housed in a dipper-
shaped, vacuum-tight glass
envelope. Within the wide end is a
flat sheet of mica. A uniform
metallic coating, called the signal
plate, is placed on the rear surface
of this sheet, away from the image.
The front surface of the mica is
covered with a mosaic composed of
many hundreds of thousands of tiny
globules of silver.

During the manufacture of the tube

the mosaic is treated with cesium
vapour and oxygen, so that each
globule has a surface of the oxides
of silver and cesium. This
combination of elements provides a
surface from which electrons are
readily liberated, by the
photoelectric effect, when light falls
on it. Since the globules are
insulated from each other and from
the signal plate by the mica, the loss
of electrons under illumination
Iconoscope camera tube causes the globules to assume and
hold a positive charge, the charge on
each globule being proportional to
the strength of the illumination
falling on it and to the time it has
been illuminated.

When an optical image is focussed on the treated mosaic, the whole surface assumes a
distribution of positive charge that corresponds to the distribution of light in the image.
The amount of charge at each point on the surface steadily increases, if the optical image
is maintained, until the scanning spot passes over the globule of silver at that point.

The scanning spot of the iconoscope

is formed by a narrow beam of
electrons, shot out of an electron
gun in the side arm of the tube. On
its way to the mosaic, this beam
passes within two sets of
electromagnet coils. Currents like
those of this figure are passed
through these coils, causing the
beam to be deflected horizontally at
a rapid rate and vertically at a
relatively slower rate. The extent of
the horizontal motion is adjusted
from top to bottom of the mosaic, so
Scanning pattern and wave forms for horizontal and that the pattern traced out by the
electron beam on the mosaic is a
vertical deflection in sequential parallel-line rectangular pattern.

As each globule is passed over by the beam, it undergoes a sudden change in electrical
potential, the amount of the change being proportional to the light falling on it. The
change in potential of the globule is transferred through the mica support to the signal
plate behind it, the globule and plate forming in effect the plates of an electrical
capacitor. Thus, as the beam passes in succession over the globules lying along a given
scanning line, the signal plate assumes a succession of voltages (the picture signal) that
match the corresponding succession of light values along that line. The signal plate is
connected to an amplifier, external to the iconoscope, that increases the strength of the
picture signal.

The phenomenon of charge storage, by which the magnitude of the electrical image is
continually increased between successive scannings of each line, is of the utmost
significance in television technology. The spirally apertured rotating Nipkow disk (and
other non-storage television pickup devices) employs only the light that is present at a
given point in the image at the instant the scanning spot passes over that point. Since in
modern television the area of the scanning spot is only about one two-hundred-
thousandth of the area of the scanning pattern, only this small fraction of the light of the
image can be used. But when the image charge is stored in increasing amount for the full
interval between successive scannings of a given point, the accumulated charge is then
theoretically increased by about 200,000 times the single charge that can be accumulated
during the time the beam moves through its own width.

Type 1847 Iconoscope, ca. 1940

One unusual thing about the 1847 is that there is no direct

connection between the mosaic and it's external signal connection.
Instead there is a ring of conductive material inside the tube,
connected to the mosaic, and a ring of conductive material outside
the tube with a signal connection. Thus the signal is picked up
through this "capacitor" consisting of two plates, internal and
external, with the glass as a dielectric.

RCA 1848 Iconoscope TV Camera Tube

ca. 1940.

Selling price in 1948 was $500.00. A

similar tube, the 1846, was used in a
television guided bomb during the latter
part of WW2.
RCA 1850A Image Iconoscope
Camera Tube ca. 1950.

One of the earliest commercially

available camera tubes. The earlier
version, RCA 1850, dates back to 1939.
Selling price in 1948 was $540.00. (In
1948 you could buy a house for about

The 1848 is considerably smaller than

the 1850 as can be seen here.

Later versions of the 1850A were painted

supposedly to reduce stray light from
getting in.

The iconoscope was later replaced but it laid the foundations for early television cameras.

Publications of Dr. Zworykin:

Photocells and Their Applications, with E.D. Wilson. New York: Wiley, 1930.
Television: The Electronics of Image Transmission, with G.A. Morton. New York:
Wiley, 1940.
Electron Optics and the Electron Microscope, with G.A. Morton, E.G. Ramberg, and
New York: Wiley, 1945.
Photoelectricity and its Application, with E.G. Ramberg. New York: Wiley, 1949.
Television: The Electronics of Image Transmission in Color and Monochrome, with
G.A. Morton.
New York: Wiley, 1954.
Television in Science and Industry, with E.G. Ramberg, and L.E. Flory. New York:
Wiley, 1958.

Abramson, Albert. Zworykin, Pioneer of Television. Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1995.
Cheek, Dennis W., and A. Kim, Vladimir Zworykin. In McMurray, Emily J., editor.
Twentieth-Century Scientists, Volume 4. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1995.
Parker, Sybil P., editor. McGraw-Hill, Modern Scientists and Engineers, Volume 3.
New York: McGraw Hill, 1980.
Thomas, Robert M. Jr., Vladimir Zworykin, Television Pioneer, Dies at 92. New York
Biographical Service, August 1982.
In the Internet: Interview with Vladimir Zworykin (1975)
History of TV - very detailed story!

This text has been compiled from the biographies of Zworykin available in the Internet:
( 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 ).
Many pictures used in this page have been taken from the web site: and I am very grateful to Mr. Steve Restelli for the kind
permission to use them.