John Logie Baird (1888-1946)

From Historical Hastings

In late spring 1923 aged 35, John Logie Baird was a very sick man and came to Hastings as a last chance to restore his health.

In his own words he was: “Coughing, choking and spluttering, and so thin as to be almost transparent. I arrived at Hastings station. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, I began to recover and it can be said that Hastings saved my life.”

He had already done a lot of work on what he referred to as ‘seeing by wireless’ but had put that on hold due to his poor health. He had already come up with other inventions including a safety razor made entirely of glass, heated socks and pneumatic soles for shoes as well as business ventures which had included soap which burned the skin and marmalade with added insects!

As his health improved he started taking more exercise and went for a long walk over the cliffs to Fairlight Glen where his mind went back to his earlier work on television and the ‘missing link’ in making it a reality.

For the technically-minded – which excludes the this author – this was ‘to find a means of amplifying the infinitesimally small current from the selenium cell’.

During his walks a possible solution to the problem came to him, he rushed home to Linton Crescent and, over raisin pudding, said to his host: “Well, sir, you will be pleased to hear that I have invented a means of seeing by wireless”.

Later in 1923, he rented a workshop in Queen’s Arcade, which, like Baird, was “limited in resources but unlimited in ingenuity” so used what he had to hand including a hatbox, scissors, darning needles, a few bicycle light lenses, a tea chest, sealing wax and glue.

In February 1924, he demonstrated to the Radio Times that a semi-mechanical analogue television system was possible by transmitting moving silhouette images. In July of the same year however, he received a 1,200-volt electric shock, but survived with only a burnt hand, as a result, however, his landlord asked him to vacate the premises.

Baird gave the first public demonstration of moving silhouette images by television at Selfridges department store in London in a three-week series of demonstrations beginning on March 25th 1925. Baird didn’t stop there, of course. He went on working on fibre optics, ‘noctovision’ using infra-red rays, radar, video recording, colour and then 3D television. He made the first transatlantic broadcast in 1928, the first BBC transmission in 1936 and, by 1944, facsimile TV – a precursor of Ceefax.

In 1929 Baird himself said: “When I arrived at Hastings station in 1923, I came in search of health after a serious illness and thought I should never be fit and well again…but in a very short time the exhilarating atmosphere of Hastings made me a changed man.”


References & Notes