Lee De Forest

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Lee de Forest
BirthplaceCouncil Bluffs, Iowa
Known for inventions

De Forest, Lee

De Forest, Lee, 1873–1961, American inventor, b. Council Bluffs, Iowa, grad. Yale, 1896. He was a pioneer in the development of wireless telegraphy, sound pictures, and television. His triode (1906) made practicable transcontinental telephony, both wire and wireless, and led to the foundation of the radio industry. He is frequently called “the father of radio.” The first high-powered naval radio stations were designed and installed by him.


See his autobiography (1950); biography by I. E. Levine (1964).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

De Forest, Lee


Born Aug. 26, 1873, in Council Bluffs, Iowa; died June 30, 1961, in Hollywood. American radio engineer.

De Forest graduated from Yale University in 1896. During his career, he headed a number of radio engineering enterprises in the United States. De Forest invented the triode in 1906 (patented 1907) and used it to design a vacuum-tube detector and amplifier known as the Audion tube. He developed a system of radiotelegraphy that was adopted by the army and navy of the United States in the early 20th century. De Forest also worked in radiotelephony, and in 1910 he transmitted a musical performance in the first broadcast of its kind. In 1916 he developed a sound-on-film optical-recording system called phonofilm. De Forest was responsible for many other inventions in radio engineering and talking motion pictures.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

De Forest, Lee

(1873–1961) electrical engineer, inventor; born in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He earned his Ph.D. from Yale in theoretical mathematical physics and electricity (1899). While working for Western Electric Company, 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 things 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 Company (1912). In 1913 he sold his triode invention to the American Telephone and Telegraph Company; the triode made transcontinental telegraphy possible and revolutionized military communications during World War I 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 $1,200.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.