"First Woman on Television" Dead at 98

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The AP reports that Elma Gerdner “Pem” Farnsworth, credited by some as the first woman to have her image transmitted on television, has died at the age of 98 in Bountiful City, Utah.

Farnsworth was the wife of Philo T. Farnsworth, an inventor who was one of the first to work on the development of television. Some reports say that Philo was the first to transmit a human image to the screen—that of Elma, on Oct. 19, 1929, in a San Francisco lab. A biography of Philo by Donald G. Godfrey credits Elma as being “the first woman on TV.”

Philo had to fight for recognition (RCA claimed his innovation as theirs, and the case went to court; Philo ultimately won), but eventually he was credited as “The Father of Television,” in no small part due to his wife’s lobbying following his 1971 death (She penned an autobiography that detailed her husband’s battles with RCA, titled Distant Vision, in 1990). Philo was represented on a postage stamp, and a statue of his likeness with the inscription “Philo Taylor Farnsworth: Inventor of Television” is located at the U.S. Capitol.

Gerdner’s survivors include her sons with Philo, Kent and Russell.

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