Philo T. Farnsworth, the Utahn who invented television, changed the way people see the world. Now four Alpine teenagers hope to change the way people see Philo T. Farnsworth.
Tiffany Long, Terri Norton, Kelly Olsen and Dana Rosvall received third-place awards for their performance of a skit dramatizing Farnsworth's achievements at the 10th annual National History Day competition in Maryland this month.The theme of this year's history competition was "The Individual in History." The girls chose Farnsworth as their subject after reading about plans to have a statue of him placed in Statuary Hall in Congress.
"We felt he had been neglected in history," Rosvall said.
The girls competed against 1,800 other secondary students at the national competition. They spent over 300 hours researching Farnsworth's life, writing a script and practicing their performance. Their research included interviews with Farnsworth's widow, Elma "Pem" Farnsworth, who lives in Salt Lake City.
They also interviewed State Rep. Don LeBaron, R-Highland, who proposed the idea for the statue in the Utah Legislature. All of that information was distilled into a creative, entertaining 10-minute presentation of Farnsworth's life.
Their campaign to have Farnsworth's greatness recognized continues: At LeBaron's invitation they performed their skit about the inventor at a fund-raising event for the statue sponsored by O.C. Tanner. And they have written to the World Book and Britannica encyclopedia companies, asking that they give more coverage to Farnsworth. The girls said encyclopedias devote only lines to Farnsworth and his achievements while devoting pages to an RCA inventor who also worked to invent television. In fact, RCA and Farnsworth were involved in a patent suit over rights to the invention.
"The main point of the lawyer for RCA was how could a boy that young invent this," Terri Norton said.
Farnsworth was 15 when he had the idea for television, 21 when he made his first television transmission. The girls, who are all 13 years old, say that Farnsworth has been an example to them of what youth can achieve.
"Anyone from Utah can do something great," Norton said. "Anyone young can do something great."
And what do these "experts" on Philo T. Farnsworth think the inventor would have to say about television in the '80s? "He said television would make the world a community," Norton said.
They agree that it has had that influence.
"But he would be disappointed at the amount of garbage (on television)," Rosvall added.