Milestone-Proposal:John Logie Baird Inventions in Television

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Docket #:2009-01

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation?

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old?

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Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity?

Was it of at least regional importance?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)?

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony?

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated?

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? No

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

John Logie Baird Inventions in Television

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?


IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: UKRI Section
Senior Officer Name: Maire O'Neill

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: UKRI Section
Senior Officer Name: Scott Linfoot

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: UKRI Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Sean McLoone

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Ron Potts
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Crystal Palace, South London in the Museum (The Museum being the only remaining building from John Logie Baird’s time there). His company laboratories and transmission towers were on at the South Tower of Crystal Palace building. Joseph Paxton’s magnificent glass building was designed for the Hyde Park 1851 Festival; it was moved to the Crystal Palace Park when it was dismantled. Currently the London Development Agency has plans to redevelop Crystal Palace Park and the Museum would be re-sited in a brand new construction. See

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The Milestone Plaque would be mounted at one of the sites used by John Logie Baird for his inventions in TV – Crystal Palace – home of Baird’s Laboratories and his Company for some years during his main work on Television. Using ultra-short waves (6-7 metres) he transmitted TV under his company name (Baird Television Ltd) between 1933 and 1939. N.B. [JLB’s first television company – “Television Limited”- dates from 1926. Then there were several other Baird companies which were amalgamated in 1930 to form "Baird Television Ltd" which lasted until 1939. The company moved out of Long Acre in about 1934]. In September 1939 broadcast television was shut down and Baird Television Ltd. Went into receivership. However, Baird continued his research independently. Notes: a. JLB’s workplace in Hastings where he sent crude 30 line silhouettes, first confirming to himself that television was possible, already has a plaque, at the Queen’s Arcade in the centre of the town. There is one also at 21 Linton Crescent, the house in Hastings where he lodged. ( b. JLB’s old house at Bexhill in Station Road, where he lived between 1944 and his death in 1946, was demolished in 2007 but on the same site Laing Homes has built a modern block of flats in the same architectural style as the old house. The old house had a plaque before it was demolished with the permission of the council. c. JLB’s company office at 133 Long Acre in Central London would have been a good candidate for a plaque as it was the base of several demonstrations, and for a short while it housed the experimental TV studios for the early BBC broadcasts in 1929, before the BBC set up its studio in Portland Place. Royal Television Society Plaque. (Royal Television Society – JLB PLAQUE d. The same comment applies to the address at 22 Frith Street in Soho where he gave the first demonstration of his TV (London County Council -JLB PLAQUE) e. Alexandra Palace, home of BBC transmissions for many years, was not directly associated with JLB but it also has a BBC plaque stating it was first place of BBC Television Transmissions -Greater London Council – (Alexandra Palace BBC Plaque). f. Helensburgh, Scotland, his family’s home town, where JLB began his interests with childhood inventions - notably a telephone link to a childhood friend and where he began to think of picture transmission, contains several plaques and other memorials. One plaque is on John Logie Baird’s birthplace, 121 West Argyle Street; another is on the Municipal Buildings in the town centre g. There is a bronze bust of John Logie Baird on a plinth in West Clyde Street overlooking the Firth of Clyde. There is a commemorative stained glass window in the West Parish Church. At the University of Strathclyde there is a plaque outside the department of Electrical Engineering. Until a couple of years ago, one of their halls of residence was called Baird Hall. However the building has now been sold. The museum that links with Strathclyde University holds many of John Logie Baird’s manuscripts.

The Crystal Palace tower and buildings were destroyed by fire in 1936 but the building adjacent – which at that time was also used by John Logie Baird for this work - is still standing. It is now a Museum of Crystal Palace historical artefacts, housing some references and artefacts of his work and activity at Crystal Palace. The site has large parkland around it (currently used for a multitude of activities) and also this site now has an LDA development plan for it which has recently been approved. This will bring Crystal Palace into an active site with many visitors. The Museum will be rebuilt and can possibly house the IEEE Plaque to good effect with JLB information set alongside it. This should make it most appropriate with the prospect of many visitors and well protected.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Secure building, TV surveillance cameras, Museum Curator, Security guards, Visitor’s procedures. Currently the London Development Agency has plans to redevelop Crystal Palace Park and the Museum would be re-sited in a brand new construction. See The Crystal Palace Foundation – Melvyn Harrison – is very supportive but do not have finances

The Crystal Palace Museum staff is also very supportive of an IEEE MILESTONE Plaque for JLB and would welcome this addition in order to add to the Museum and the display relating to JLB – the Museum Curator and Museum trustees have been sent requests for support in writing.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

South London Council and Crystal Palace Foundation Ltd.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

Although at a very early age John “dreamed” of sending pictures as well as voice between distance places (Television), it was in 1923 that he began the venture in earnest and it was 1925 when he achieved the actual practical level required for it to be realised, and that was when he first demonstrated that it could be done. His first public demonstration was on March 25, 1925, at the Selfridges department store on Oxford Street. His images were transmitted only 100 feet or so - but it was a world first public demonstration. It used intense light beams falling on a screen. During world war II he continued his research mainly at his own expense. This included advances in colour and 3 dimensional television, and what was then the largest cathode ray screen in the world (28 inch). From JLB Memoirs – “Television and Me” (Birlinn Press, Edinburgh, 2004. ISBN 184183 0631) “2nd October, 1925 - success! Everything functioned properly. The image of the dummy's head formed itself on the screen, with, what appeared to me, almost unbelievable clarity”. Immediately after this, he used the office boy, William Taynton, as a human subject. This event - the first ever transmission of a proper television picture, is commemorated by a blue plaque mounted on the wall of his old workshop at 22 Frith Street, Soho, London.

“26th January, 1926 – he gave a private demonstration to Royal Institution members”.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Realisation of new techniques and improvement of technology were some of the technical obstacles that needed solutions. Light, how to provide more light was the most serious problem. The photoelectric cells then available were quite unresponsive to the light. Geographical sites of equipments had to be carefully selected and approved. Radio Transmission Licences and Commercial broadcast licences had to be acquired and renewed. In Britain, the B.B.C. had to be persuaded to broadcast television programmes; at first, Baird’s company had to pay the B.B.C. for the use of its transmitting facilities.

Commercial stealing of ideas had to be dealt with –with its legal inferences and consequences. Finance was not readily forthcoming and had to be found - undoubtedly slowed down this technological advance. Human acceptance of the idea of television was slow and it often delayed the development of the inventions.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

Communication – the birth of visual picture and image transmissions world wide – One of the most significant changes to society in the 20th century - socially giving the world much a more effective communication means within and between the nations allowing new types of information to be exchanged. Many Technological and Engineering aspects such as electronic cameras and displays had to be solved by piecemeal inventions to allow the successful achievement and adoption of Broadcast Television. Various scientific principles behind this work were poorly understood at the time such as selenium cell behaviour. This led to progress in these aspects as well as discovery of subsidiary effects, for instance infra red viewing (christened Noctovision by Baird) and radar. Suitable transmission methods had to be established. All in all the social affects have been enormous and changed the world. Transmission of pictures and moving images over large distances. Much higher speed of information transfer compared to other methods (postal). Transmission of action (realising visualisation as if you were present at the scene). Other key features that set this work apart was the added advantage of reception by numerous, widespread recipients (eventually worldwide). Initially, normal telephone lines were used for large distance transmission (as in JLB first demonstration in 1927 of transmission from London to Glasgow) before wireless transmission gave television much wider international capability. In February 1928 Baird sent television images from London to Hartsdale, NY, just north of New York City. Key technological features were the use of scanned image strips of the picture being sent and received consecutively, initially utilising mechanically rotating discs with apertures to split down the image. Later, working privately during World War II, John Logie Baird developed improved electronic television based on scanning with cathode ray tubes. Baird’s work led eventually to further advances including the rapid electronic transmission of still images (fax), 3-dimensional television and large-screen television.

John Logie Baird’s inventiveness and engineering abilities led to him taking out patents in a range of fields. All in all he has achieved 178 patents down to his name. Most of them were either British or US. There is a full list given in Professor Russell Burns's book: (Burns, R. - John Logie Baird, television pioneer, ISBN-10: 0-85296-797-7.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.