Born in 1888 in Helensburgh on Scotland’s West Coast, the son of a clergyman showed an early aptitude for things technical, rigging up a telephone exchange so he could talk to his friends across the street.
His studies at Glasgow and West of Scotland Technical College were interrupted by World War One, and having been rejected for service due to ill health, Baird moved to England’s south coast.
There he built what would become the world’s first working television set, from a tea chest, an old hatbox and a pair of scissors, darning needles, some bicycle light lenses, and sealing wax and glue.
By 1924 Baird had managed to transmit a flickering image a few feet, but his landlord was unhappy about his activities and the scientist moved to London, where in March 1925 he gave the first public demonstration of moving silhouette images by television at Selfridges department store.
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On January 26th 1926 he demonstrated his ‘televisor’ in front of 50 scientists as well as members of the Royal Institution and a reporter from The Times, in an attic in central London. Showing images at 12.5 pictures per second, it was the first demonstration of a television system that could broadcast live moving images with tone graduation.
Baird would later go on to make the world’s first colour transmission on July 3rd 1928, and later that year he also demonstrated stereoscopic television.
He went on to work on a radar-like system for defence purposes and an early video recording device, which he named Phonovision.
Baird’s method of mechanical scanning was superseded in the world of television by electronic methods, but the principles behind his work live on even today, in long wavelength infrared cameras providing night vision capability for fighter pilots, as well as heat-seeking night vision cameras for police helicopters.