Super Scientists

Lee De Forest Lee De Forest

De Forest invented what he called the "audion tube," or vacuum tube, in 1906 that helped put radio and television broadcasts "on the air." He also developed a way to put sound on film. Though Hollywood initially rejected his system in favor of another for making "talkies," filmmakers later adopted his methods and much later, in the 1950's, gave De Forest an Oscar.

De Forest was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1873, studied at Yale and became a physicist. He called himself the "father of radio" and did begin broadcasting news in 1916 on a radio station he set up in New York. That was four years before KDKA in Pittsburgh went on the air, which is considered to be the first radio station in the U.S. De Forest also had plenty of problems along the way. His early companies went broke or came close to it. He was also accused of fraud and some of his backers went to jail for attempting to use the U.S. Mail to try to sell his audion tube, which was thought to be worthless at the time.

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