Lee de Forest The Father of Radio


Lee de Forest c. 1904

Lee de Forest, known as “The Father of Radio”, was best known for his most successful invention, the Audion vacuum tube, which was the first successful amplification device, making widespread radio broadcasting possible. De Forest’s legacy was a constant stream of great success and failure, with his proud personality and ambitious drive often putting him at odds with partners and competitors alike. De Forest began exploring sound film in the late teens and early 20s, and devoted all of his focus on the development by 1921. 

Originally using a light cell known as the “Kurtz Cell”, de Forest’s recognition of the Thalofide Cell as superior in his early film work brought him in contact with Ted Case. The two discovered a mutual benefit in their work, as de Forest’s drive and personal connection to independent theaters in New York (particularly the Rivoli Theater) brought attention to the high quality system. De Forest’s lack of crediting for Case’s essential contributions to his device led to a significantly strained relationship. When Case took his modified system to Fox, de Forest attempted a lawsuit against Fox, but initially failed. By 1927, de Forest’s role in sound film was negligible as Warner Brothers and Fox Film Corporation became the major names in sound film.

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Header: Audion Tube Advertisement, Electrical Experimenter magazine, August, 1916

Published by Experimenter Publishing Company Inc,. 233 Fulton Street, New York, N.Y. Hugo Gernsback, President; Sidney Gernsback, Treasurer; Milton Hymes, Secretary. – The Electrical Experimenter magazine, August 1916, volume 4, number 4, page 228

Upper Left: Image of Lee de Forest, published in the February 1904 issue of The Electrical Age