What modern object was invented by a 14-year-old named Philo Farnsworth?

And the answer: television.
Photo credit: Philo T. Farnsworth Photograph Collection/Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah. 

Without Philo Farnsworth, the world may have never been able to experience reality TV, or the massive let-down that was the Game of Thrones finale. Born in Rigby, Idaho, Farnsworth was just 14 years old when he drafted his first sketch of the device that would later become the television, eventually patenting his invention in 1928 at the age of 22.

Not only did a kid invent the television—but did you know that a nineteen-year-old invented water skiing (and water skis themselves), in 1922? Or, that an eleven-year-old created the first Popsicle in 1905? Into the early 20th century, and peaking in the post-war technologies of the 1920s, new innovations in major American industries encouraged everyone to contribute and patent an idea.

For example, although electric Christmas lights had been invented decades earlier by Thomas Edison, they weren’t widely accessible by any means due to their extremely high price. At the time, it was estimated to cost around $2,000 to adorn an average Christmas tree, making brightly-lit trees a tradition that many families could not afford. All that changed when 16-year-old Albert Sadacca came along, inventing a version of electric lights that were affordable and safe for public use. He used his parents’ novelty lighting company to produce his invention in 1925, and went on to create an electric company with his brother that cornered the Christmas light market until the 1960s.

Did you know?

Yesterday was Kid Inventors’ Day! Celebrated annually on January 17th for the birth anniversary of Benjamin Franklin—who invented the first swim flippers at just under the age of 12—Kid Inventors’ Day recognizes the ingenuity of kids throughout history and to the present day. Learn about other kids’ historic inventions here.

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