Philo Farnsworth

He had a nervous breakdown, spent time in hospitals and had to submit to shock therapy. And in 1947, as if he were being punished for having invented television, his house in Maine burned to the ground.

One wishes it could be said that this was the final indignity Farnsworth had to suffer, but it was not. Ten years later, he appeared as a mystery guest on the television program What’s My Line? Farnsworth was referred to as Dr. X and the panel had the task of discovering what he had done to merit his appearance on the show. One of the panelists asked Dr. X if he had invented some kind of a machine that might be painful when used. Farnsworth answered, “Yes. Sometimes it’s most painful.”

He was just being characteristically polite. His attitude toward the uses that had been made of his invention was more ferocious. His son Kent was once asked what that attitude was. He said, “I suppose you could say that he felt he had created kind of a monster, a way for people to waste a lot of their lives.”

He added, “Throughout my childhood his reaction to television was ‘There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.’ ” —Neil PostmanPhilo Farnsworth (Time)

From an old article. Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death, a cutting look at TV’s role in popular culture.