Title: The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth
Illustrator: Greg Couch
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Concepts: child schooling and work, entrepreneur, innovation
In simple and clear language, this book tells the little-known story of inventor Philo Farnsworth and what is arguably his most famous invention. As a child growing up in Utah and Idaho, Philo invented ways to speed up his chores around the family’s farm and studied science magazines in his free time. He enjoyed reading about television, a still abstract concept that scientists were struggling to put into reality. Then one day while he plowed the fields, the idea of how to make television work struck 14-year-old Philo.
Krull goes to great lengths to explain what rural American life was like in the early 1900s when Philo was born, specifically mentioning how many modern conveniences were not available at the time. This historical background puts Philo’s invention of the television into context for today’s readers. Couch’s accompanying illustrations provide the visuals for young readers wondering about the machinery of Philo’s time mentioned in the text, including hand-cranked telephones and phonographs. At the end of the book, the author includes a note with more background information specifically on Philo’s life and gives the sources used in writing the book, noting which ones would be of particular interest to young readers.
This book about Philo’s invention of the television would appeal most to children interested in science and, to a lesser extent, those interested in history. However, Krull’s language, even when describing the mechanics of television, is accessible enough that even children not interested in science or history may want to read the back story behind the screen now found in nearly every home. The Boy Who Invented TV also explores economic concepts related to innovation and the finances needed to see ideas put into action.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children