Vladimir K. Zworykin

Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin (Russian: Влади́мир Козьми́ч Зворы́кин, Vladimir Koz'mich Zvorykin; July 29 [O.S. July 17] 1888 – July 29, 1982)[1][2] was a Russian-born American inventor, engineer, and pioneer of television technology. Educated in Russia and in France, he spent most of his life in the United States. Zworykin invented a television transmitting and receiving system employing cathode ray tubes. He played a role in the practical development of television from the early thirties, including charge storage-type tubes, infrared image tubes and the electron microscope.[3]

Vladimir K. Zworykin
Vladimir Zworykin in 1956
Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin

July 29, 1888
DiedJuly 29, 1982 (aged 94)
CitizenshipRussian, American
EducationSaint Petersburg State Institute of Technology
University of Pittsburgh (PhD)
Spouse(s)Tatiana Vasilieff (m. 1915) 2nd wife Katherine Polevitsky (m. 1951)
Engineering career
ProjectsTelevision, Electron Microscope
Significant designIconoscope, Photomultiplier
Significant advanceInventor of the kinescope and other components of early television technology
AwardsIRE Medal of Honor, 1951, IEEE Edison Medal, 1952


Vladimir Kosmich Zworykin was born in Murom, Russia, in 1888, on July 29 (July 17 in the Julian calendar), to the family of a prosperous merchant. He had a relatively calm upbringing, and he rarely saw his father except on religious holidays. He studied at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, under Boris Rosing. He helped Rosing with experimental work on television in the basement of Rosing's private lab at the School of Artillery of Saint Petersburg. They worked on the problem of "electrical telescopy," something Zworykin had never heard of before. At this time, electrical telescopy (or television as it was later called) was just a dream. Zworykin did not know that others had been studying the idea since the 1880s, or that Professor Rosing had been working on it in secret since 1902 and had made excellent progress. Rosing had filed his first patent on a television system in 1907, featuring a very early cathode ray tube as a receiver, and a mechanical device as a transmitter. Its demonstration in 1911, based on an improved design, was the world's first demonstration of TV of any kind.[4]

Zworykin graduated in 1912 and, thereafter, studied X-rays under professor Paul Langevin in Paris.[4] During World War I, Zworykin was enlisted and served in the Russian Signal Corps, then succeeded in getting a job working for Russian Marconi, testing radio equipment that was being produced for the Russian Army. Zworykin decided to leave Russia for the United States in 1918, during the Russian Civil War. He left through Siberia, travelling north on the River Ob to the Arctic Ocean as part of an expedition led by Russian scientist Innokenty P. Tolmachev, eventually arriving in the US at the end of 1918. He returned to Omsk, then capital of Admiral Kolchak's government in 1919, via Vladivostok, then to the United States again on official duties from the Omsk government. These duties ended with the collapse of the White movement in Siberia at the death of Kolchak. Zworykin then decided to remain permanently in the US.

Zworykin kinescope 1929
Zworykin demonstrates electronic television (1929).

Once in the U.S., Zworykin found work at the Westinghouse laboratories in Pittsburgh, where he eventually had an opportunity to engage in television experiments. He came up with the main invention of the 20th century – electronic television. He applied for a television patent in the US in 1923. He summarized the resulting invention in two patent applications. The first, entitled "Television Systems", was filed on December 29, 1923, and was followed by a second application in 1925 of essentially the same content, but with minor changes and the addition of a Paget-type screen for color transmission and reception.[5] He was awarded a patent for the 1925 application in 1928,[5] and two patents for the 1923 application that was divided in 1931,[6][7] although the equipment described was never successfully demonstrated.[8][9][4]:51,2

Zworykin described cathode ray tubes as both transmitter and receiver. The operation, whose basic thrust was to prevent the emission of electrons between scansion cycles, was reminiscent of A. A. Campbell Swinton's proposal published in Nature in June 1908.[10][11]

Zworykin patent (1923)
Drawing from Zworykin's 1923 patent application Television System.[6][7]

The demonstration given by Zworykin sometime in late 1925 or early 1926, was far from a success with the Westinghouse management, even though it showed the possibilities inherent in a system based on the cathode ray tube. Although he was told by management to "devote his time to more practical endeavours", Zworykin continued his efforts to perfect his system. As attested by his doctoral dissertation of 1926, earning him a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, his experiments were directed at improving the output of photoelectric cells.

There were, however, limits to how far one could go along these lines, and so, in 1929, Zworykin returned to vibrating mirrors and facsimile transmission, filing patents describing these. At this time, however, he was also experimenting with an improved cathode ray receiving tube, filing a patent application for this in November 1929, and introducing the new receiver that he named the "kinescope", reading a paper two days later at a convention of the Institute of Radio Engineers.

Having developed the prototype of the receiver by December, Zworykin met David Sarnoff,[12] who eventually hired him and put him in charge of television development for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) at its factories and laboratories in Camden, New Jersey.

The move to the RCA's Camden laboratories occurred in the spring of 1930, and the difficult task of developing a transmitter could begin. There was an in-house evaluation in mid-1930, where the kinescope performed well (but with only 60 lines definition[13]), and the transmitter was still of a mechanical type. A "breakthrough" would come when the Zworykin team decided to develop a new type of cathode ray transmitter, one described in the French and British patents of 1928 priority by the Hungarian inventor Kalman Tihanyi whom the company had approached in July 1930, after the publication of his patents in England and France. This was a curious design, one where the scanning electron beam would strike the photoelectric cell from the same side where the optical image was cast. Even more importantly, it was a system characterized by an operation based on an entirely new principle, the principle of the accumulation and storage of charges during the entire time between two scansions by the cathode-ray beam.

Vladimir Zworykin and historic TV tubes
Zworykin and some of the historic camera tubes he developed

According to Albert Abramson, Zworykin's experiments started in April 1931, and after the achievement of the first promising experimental transmitters, on October 23, 1931, it was decided that the new camera tube would be named the iconoscope. Zworykin first presented his iconoscope to RCA in 1932.[14] He continued work on it, and "[t]he image iconoscope, presented in 1934, was a result of a collaboration between Zworykin and RCA's licensee Telefunken. ... In 1935 the Reichspost started the public broadcastings using this tube and applying a 180 lines system."[14]

Second marriage and calling

Zworykin married for a second time in 1951. His wife was Katherine Polevitzky (1888-1985), a Russian-born professor of bacteriology at the University of Pennsylvania. It was the second marriage for both. The ceremony was in Burlington, New Jersey.[15] A photographic record of his marriage and worldwide tour can be viewed online.[16] He retired in 1954.

But new frontiers in medical engineering and biological engineering appealed to him, and he became a founder and first president of the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering. The Federation continues to honor outstanding research engineering with a Zworykin Award, the prize being travelling funds to the award's presentation at a World Congress.[17]


Zworykin died on his 94th birthday, July 29, 1982, in Princeton, New Jersey.[2] His wife Katherine died on February 18, 1985.[18]


Vladimir Zworykin's patent diagram of an iconoscope, 1931,[19] with an apparatus similar to the camera part.[6][7]

Throughout his steady rise in rank, Zworykin remained involved in the many important developments of RCA and received several outstanding honours, including, in 1934, the Morris Liebmann Memorial Prize from the Institute of Radio Engineers.[20]

He was awarded the Howard N. Potts Medal from The Franklin Institute in 1947.[21]

He was named honorary vice president of RCA in 1954.[22]

In 1966, 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.[22]

He was founder-president of the International Federation for Medical Electronics and Biological Engineering, a recipient of the Faraday Medal from Great Britain (1965), and a member of the U.S. National Hall of Fame from 1977.[22]

He received the first Eduard Rhein Ring of Honor from the German Eduard Rhein Foundation in 1980.[23]

From 1952 to 1986, the IEEE made awards to worthy engineers in the name of Vladimir K. Zworykin. More recently the Zworykin Award has been bestowed by the International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering.[24]

The most complete list of Zworykin's awards can be found online at historyTV.net .[25]


Zworykin was inducted into the New Jersey Inventor's Hall of Fame and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Additionally, Tektronix in Beaverton, Oregon has named a street on its campus after Zworykin.

In 1995 University of Illinois Press published Zworykin, Pioneer of Television by Albert Abramson.

In 2010 Leonid Parfyonov produced a documentary film "Zvorykin-Muromets"[26] about Zworykin.

Zworykin is listed in the Russian-American Chamber of Fame of Congress of Russian Americans, which is dedicated to Russian immigrants who made outstanding contributions to American science or culture.[27][28][29]

See also


  1. ^ The birth year has been recently revised from 1889 to 1888 according to the metric book of Sretenskaya Church of the town of Murom (now in the archive of Murom ZAGS). The metric book was brought into attention by V. Ya. Chernushev, the birth date of Zworykin was revised by K. M. Velembovskaya, journal "Новая и новейшая история" (Modern and Contemporary History) № 5 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Vladimir Zworykin, Television Pioneer, Dies at 92". New York Times. August 1, 1982. Retrieved 2008-04-27. Dr. Vladimir Kosma Zworykin, a Russian-born scientist whose achievements were pivotal to the development of television, died Thursday at the Princeton (N.J.) Medical Center. He was 94 years old and lived in Princeton. Zworykin, a naturalized American citizen who was also credited with spearheading development of the electron ...
  3. ^ IEEE Global History Network (2011). "Vladimir Zworykin Oral History". IEEE History Center. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Abramson, Albert (1995). Zworykin, Pioneer of Television. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02104-5.
  5. ^ a b Vladimir Zworykin (November 13, 1928) [filed 1925]. "Television System". Patent No. 1,691,324. United States Patent Office. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  6. ^ a b c Zworykin, V. K., Television System, United States Patent Office, Patent No. 2,022,450, 1935-11-26, retrieved 2010-05-10.
  7. ^ a b c Zworykin, V. K., Television System, United States Patent Office, Patent No. 2,141,059, 1938-12-20, retrieved 2009-06-03.
  8. ^ Schatzkin, Paul (2002), The Boy Who Invented Television. Silver Spring, Maryland: Teamcom Books, pp. 111-8. ISBN 1-928791-30-1.
  9. ^ Abramson, Albert. The History of Television, 1880 to 1941. (1987). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., p. 209 ISBN 0-89950-284-9.
  10. ^ A. A. CAMPBELL SWINTON (1908) Distant Electric Vision (first paragraph)
  11. ^ A. A. CAMPBELL SWINTON (1908) Distant Electric Vision (pdf)
  12. ^ https://archive.org/details/StoryofT1956 2.18-6.00
  13. ^ https://archive.org/details/StoryofT1956 8.25-8.40
  14. ^ a b de Vries, M. J.; de Vries, Marc; Cross, Nigel; Grant, Donald P. (1993). Design methodology and relationships with science, Número 71 de NATO ASI series. Springer. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-7923-2191-0. Retrieved 2010-01-15.
  15. ^ "Married". Time. November 26, 1951. Retrieved 2008-04-27. Vladimir Zworykin, 62, Russian-born, Russian-trained physicist, the "father of television," who developed the iconoscope (eye) of the TV camera in 1923, now laments: "We never dreamed of Howdy Doody on Television — we always thought television would find its highest value in science and industry"; and Katherine Polevitzky, 62, Russian-born professor of bacteriology at the University of Pennsylvania; both for the second time; in Burlington, New Jersey.
  16. ^ Restelli, Steve. "1951 Dr.Zworykin Television Inventor Weds Dr. Katherine Polevitzky". framemaster.tripod.com.
  17. ^ International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering
  18. ^ "Katherine Zworykin". Fold3.
  19. ^ "Method of and apparatus for producing images of objects".
  20. ^ "IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award Recipients" (PDF). IEEE. Retrieved March 14, 2011.
  21. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database - Howard N. Potts Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Archived from the original on May 2, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2011.
  22. ^ a b c "Vladimir Kosma Zworykin (American engineer and inventor)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1982-07-29. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  23. ^ "The Eduard Rhein Ring of Honor Recipients". Eduard Rhein Foundation. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved February 5, 2011.
  24. ^ "Awards". International Federation for Medical and Biological Engineering. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
  25. ^ Restelli, Steve. "VLADIMIR K. ZWORYKIN: DIPLOMAS, CERTIFICATES, HONORS". framemaster.tripod.com.
  26. ^ "Zvorykin-Muromets". IMDb.
  27. ^ "The place of Russian emigration in US science and technology". 15 December 2016.
  28. ^ Anatoly Bezkorovainy (2008). All Was Not Lost: Journey of a Russian Immigrant from Riga to Chicagoland. AuthorHouse. p. 457. Retrieved August 15, 2017.
  29. ^ "Hall of Fame". 20 June 2015.

Further reading

External links

1889 in science

The year 1889 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1923 in science

The year 1923 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1925 in science

The year 1925 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

1934 in television

The year 1934 in television involved some significant events.

Below is a list of television-related events during 1934.

Alexandr Innokentevich Tolmatchew

Alexandr Innokentevich Tolmatchew, also transliterated Tolmachev (Russian: Александр Иннокентьевич Толмачёв, 21 September 1903, St. Petersburg 16 November 1979, Leningrad ) was a twentieth century Russian and Soviet botanist and phytogeographer who was a leading expert in the flora of Russia's Arctic. He is the editor of an important multi-volume set, Flora Of The Russian Arctic - A Critical Review Of The Vascular Plants Occurring In The Arctic Region Of The Former Soviet Union, edited by J. G. Packer and translated into English by G. C. D. Griffiths.Tolmatchew was an expert in the family Juncaceae, and the West Siberian species Luzula tolmatchewii (now called Luzula nivalis) was named after him by Russian Arctic and subarctic botanist Vladimir Borisovich Kuvaev. He was also an expert in some areas of the Brassicaceae or mustard family, the Caryophyllaceae or carnation family, the Papaveraceae or poppy family and the Ranunculaceae or buttercup family.

Tolmatchew had broad interests in the natural history of the Arctic including its insects, birds and soils. He was appointed head of the USSR's Academy of Sciences Office for the Studies of the Northern Areas in Arkhangelsk in 1939 after serving for a few years as head of its botanical section. He next transferred during World War II to the Stalinbad USSR Academy of Sciences offices in Tajikistan, then worked in the early 1950s in the Sakhalin office of the USSR Academy of Sciences, before returning to and settling in Leningrad.

Tomatchew is the son of Russian and Siberian mammoth hunter, and paleobotanist, Innokenty Pablovich Tolmachoff, who immigrated to the United States in 1918 in the company of American inventor Vladimir K. Zworykin. The difference in spelling of the surnames is due to the time of transliteration, the son remained in the Soviet Union after his father's emigration.

Charles Ginsburg

Charles Paulson Ginsburg (July 27, 1920 – April 9, 1992) was an American engineer and the leader of a research team at Ampex which developed one of the first practical videotape recorders.

Communications receiver

A communications receiver is a type of radio receiver used as a component of a radio communication link. This is in contrast to a broadcast receiver which is used to receive radio broadcasts. A communication receiver receives parts of the radio spectrum not used for broadcasting, that includes amateur, military, aircraft, marine, and other bands. They are often used with a radio transmitter as part of a two way radio link for shortwave radio or amateur radio communication, although they are also used for shortwave listening.

Donald Bitzer

Donald L. Bitzer (born January 1, 1934) is an American electrical engineer and computer scientist. He was the co-inventor of the plasma display, is largely regarded as the "father of PLATO", and has made a career of improving classroom productivity by using computer and telecommunications technologies.

He received three degrees in electrical engineering (B.S., 1955; M.S., 1956; Ph.D., 1960) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Bitzer holds patents for inventions including the plasma-display panel, the binary-weighted solenoid, a high-quality modem, and new satellite communications techniques. The creation of the PLATO computer system, the first system to combine graphics and touch-sensitive screens, is the hallmark of his efforts.

Bitzer co-invented the flat plasma display panel in 1964. Originally invented as an educational aid to help students working in front of computers for long periods of time, plasma screens do not flicker and are a significant advance in television technology. The display was also a way of overcoming the limited memory of the computer systems being used. In 1973 the National Academy of Engineering presented Bitzer with the Vladimir K. Zworykin Award, which honors the inventor of the iconoscope. The invention won the Industrial Research 100 Award in 1966.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1974, Bitzer was designated a National Associate by the National Academies in 2002. In October the same year, he was awarded an Emmy by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for his efforts in advancing television technology. He is also a Computer Society Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a member of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Following several decades on the faculty of UIUC's College of Engineering, Bitzer is currently a Distinguished University Research Professor of Computer Science at North Carolina State University.

Eduard Rhein Foundation

The Eduard Rhein Foundation was founded in 1976 in Hamburg (Germany) by Eduard Rhein. The goal of the foundation is to promote scientific research, learning, arts, and culture. This is done in particular by granting awards for outstanding achievements in research an/or development in the areas of radio, television and information technology.

Eugene I. Gordon

Eugene Irving Gordon (September 14, 1930 – September 15, 2014) was an American physicist. He was Director of the Lightwave Devices Laboratory of Bell Labs.

IEEE Edison Medal

The IEEE Edison Medal is presented by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) "for a career of meritorious achievement in electrical science, electrical engineering or the electrical arts." It is the oldest and most coveted medal in this field of engineering in the United States. The award consists of a gold medal, bronze replica, small gold replica, certificate and honorarium. The medal may only be awarded to a new leap/breakthrough in the technological area of science .

IEEE Medal of Honor

The IEEE Medal of Honor is the highest recognition of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It has been awarded since 1917, when its first recipient was Major Edwin H. Armstrong. It is given for an exceptional contribution or an extraordinary career in the IEEE fields of interest. The award consists of a gold medal, bronze replica, certificate and honorarium. The Medal of Honor may only be awarded to an individual.

The medal was created by the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) as the IRE Medal of Honor. It became the IEEE Medal of Honor when IRE merged with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) to form the IEEE in 1963. It was decided that IRE's Medal of Honor would be presented as IEEE's highest award, while the Edison Medal would become IEEE's principal medal.

Ten persons with an exceptional career in electrical engineering received both the IEEE Edison Medal and the IEEE Medal of Honor, namely Edwin Howard Armstrong, Ernst Alexanderson, Mihajlo Pupin, Arthur E. Kennelly, Vladimir K. Zworykin, John R. Pierce, Sidney Darlington, Nick Holonyak, Robert H. Dennard, Dave Forney, and Kees Schouhamer Immink.

Jan A. Rajchman

Jan Aleksander Rajchman (London, 10 August 1911 – 1 April 1989) was a Polish electrical engineer and computer pioneer.


Kinescope , shortened to kine , also known as telerecording in Britain, is a recording of a television program on motion picture film, directly through a lens focused on the screen of a video monitor. The process was pioneered during the 1940s for the preservation, re-broadcasting and sale of television programmes before the use of commercial broadcast-quality videotape became prevalent for these purposes.

Typically, the term can refer to the process itself, the equipment used for the procedure (a 16 mm or 35 mm movie camera mounted in front of a video monitor, and synchronized to the monitor's scanning rate), or a film made using the process. Kinescopes were the only practical way to preserve live television broadcasts prior to the introduction of videotape in 1956. A small number of theatrically released feature films have also been produced as kinescopes.The term kinescope originally referred to the cathode ray tube used in television receivers, as named by inventor Vladimir K. Zworykin in 1929. Hence, the recordings were known in full as kinescope films or kinescope recordings. RCA was granted a trademark for the term (for its cathode ray tube) in 1932; it voluntarily released the term to the public domain in 1950.

Otto H. Schade

Otto H. Schade (April 27, 1903 – April 28, 1981) was a noted television pioneer, best known for his work on evaluating the gradation, graininess and sharpness in film and television images, and his aperture theory that mathematically modeled the system performance of photographic lenses, films, television tubes, and electrical circuits.

Schade was born in Schmalkalden, Germany, graduated in 1922 from the Reform-Real-Gymnasium in Halle, Germany, then worked at Telephonfabrik A.G. vorm. J. Berliner in Berlin and Düsseldorf (1922–1924), and at the Ratig company in Berlin (1924–1925). He then emigrated to the United States to work at A. Atwater Kent in Philadelphia (1926–1931).

In 1931 Schade joined the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), where he spent the remainder of his career. From 1944 to 1957, he developed a unified theory of image analysis and specification, including practical methods for measuring the optical transfer function and noise in optical, photographic, and electronic imaging systems. In 1958 he began a study leading to the Nuvistor low-noise tubes for television receivers. He retired from RCA in 1968, continuing as a consultant until 1974.

Schade was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. He received 85 patents and numerous awards, including an honorary Doctorate of Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1953), Modern Pioneer Award of the National Association of Manufacturers (1940), the RCA Victor Award of Merit (1946), the IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award (1950), the first David Sarnoff Gold Medal Award (in 1951), David Sarnoff Outstanding Achievement Award (1968), and the Vladimir K. Zworykin Award (1969).

The Society for Information Display awards a prize in his honor.

Outline of telecommunication

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to telecommunication:

Telecommunication – the transmission of signals over a distance for the purpose of communication. In modern times, this process almost always involves the use of electromagnetic waves by transmitters and receivers, but in earlier years it also involved the use of drums and visual signals such as smoke, fire, beacons, semaphore lines and other optical communications.

Scientific Advisory Group

The Scientific Advisory Group of the United States Air Force, later renamed the Scientific Advisory Board, was established in 1944, when General Henry H. Arnold asked Dr. Theodore von Kármán to establish a group of scientists to review the techniques and research trends in aeronautics. The group was asked to evaluate the aeronautical research and development programs and facilities of the Axis powers of World War II, and to provide recommendations for future United States Air Force research and development programs.

Von Kármán picked the following scientists for initial members of the group: Hugh Dryden, Frank Wattendorf, Hsue-shen Tsien, T.F. Walkowitz, George S. Schairer, G.E. Valley, Ivan A. Getting, Edward Mills Purcell, Vladimir K. Zworykin, Lee DuBridge, and Norman Ramsey.Under von Kármán the group put together several reports for General Arnold, including, "Where We Stand" and "Toward New Horizons." General Arnold's vision and Dr. von Kármán's reports led to American airpower dominance and the establishment of the Air Engineering Development Center later renamed and dedicated as the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) in 1951.

Selectron tube

The Selectron was an early form of digital computer memory developed by Jan A. Rajchman and his group at the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) under the direction of Vladimir K. Zworykin. It was a vacuum tube that stored digital data as electrostatic charges using technology similar to the Williams tube storage device. The team was never able to produce a commercially viable form of Selectron before magnetic-core memory became almost universal, and it remains practically unknown today.

Swissvale, Pennsylvania

Swissvale is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, 9 miles (14 km) east of downtown Pittsburgh. Named for a farmstead owned by James Swisshelm, during the industrial age it was the site of the Union Switch and Signal Company of George Westinghouse. The population was 8,983 at the 2010 census. In 1940, 15,919 people lived there.

Related companies
Network topology
and switching

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.