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MAKING THE MODERN WORLD
Stories about the lives we've made
people:Sir Isaac Shoenberg
Born: 1 March 1880, Pinsk, Russia
Died: 25 July 1963, London, England

Electronic engineer who played a key role in the history of television.

Born in Russia, Schoenberg studied mathematics, mechanical engineering, and electricity in Kiev. In 1905 he took a job designing and installing the earliest wireless stations in Russia.

In 1914 Shoenberg emigrated to London. There he joined the Marconi Wireless and Telegraph Company and soon became head of patents and then general manager. An enthusiast for music and sound recording, he moved to the Columbia Graphophone Company as general manager in 1928. Three years later, following a merger, the company assumed the name Electric and Musical Industries Ltd. (EMI). Shoenberg then became head of research and patents there.

EMI were considering investing in the development of television, a fledgling technology, but were unsure about taking such a risk. Shoenberg persuaded his colleagues to fund the project. In 1932 his team succeeded in making an electronic television picture-generating tube. The pictures were crude but, undeterred, Shoenberg continued with his research. His persistence paid off. In 1936 the BBC launched a public television service using the system Shoenberg had pioneered. He became a director of EMI in 1955 and in 1962 was awarded a knighthood.

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