Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 45

Lee De Forest - Early years, Marriages, Middle years, Later years, Quotes, Trivia

triode opera telegraph eventually

Electrical engineer and inventor, born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA. He studied theoretical mathematical physics and electricity at Yale (1899 PhD), and while working for Western Electric Co he made the first of his inventions. He started a radio broadcasting company (1902) and made the first broadcast of live opera, Enrico Caruso singing at the Metropolitan Opera (1910). Although he invented a number of devices crucial to radio, including a microphone and a three-element vacuum tube (or triode), his corporate enterprises failed and he worked briefly with the Federal Telegraph Co (1912). In 1913 he sold his triode invention to the American Telephone and Telegraph Co; the triode made transcontinental telegraphy possible and revolutionized military communications during World War 1 and would eventually become the basis of modern electronics. He used his profits from the triode to establish a firm in New York City which he then sold in 1923. He went on to work in telephony and sound motion-pictures but, due partly to his prickly personality, he continued to experience financial and legal complications in each field. Although he eventually held more than 300 patents and was called the ‘Father of Radio’, he died with an estate of only $1200.

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