Shoenberg, Isaac

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b. 1 March 1880 Kiev, Ukraine
d. 25 January 1963 Willesden, London, England
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Russian engineer and friend of Vladimir Zworykin; Director of Research at EMI, responsible for creating the team that successfully developed the world's first all-electronic television system.
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After his initial engineering education at Kiev Polytechnic, Shoenberg went to London to undertake further studies at the Royal College of Science. In 1905 he returned to Russia and rose to become Chief Engineer of the Russian Wireless Telegraphy Company. He then returned to England, where he was a consultant in charge of the Patent Department and then joint General Manager of the Marconi Wireless Telegraphy Company (see Marconi). In 1929 he joined the Columbia Graphophone Company, but two years later this amalgamated with the Gramophone Company, by then known as His Master's voice (HMV), to form EMI (Electric and Musical Industries), a company in which the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) had a significant shareholding. Appointed Director of the new company's Research Laboratories in 1931, Shoenberg gathered together a team of highly skilled engineers, including Blumlein, Browne, Willans, McGee, Lubszynski, Broadway and White, with the objective of producing an all-electronic television system suitable for public broadcasting. A 150-line system had already been demonstrated using film as the source material; a photoemissive camera tube similar to Zworykin's iconoscope soon followed. With alternate demonstrations of the EMI system and the mechanical system of Baird arranged with the object of selecting a broadcast system for the UK, Shoenberg took the bold decision to aim for a 405-line "high-definition" standard, using interlaced scanning based on an RCA patent and further developed by Blumlein. This was so successful that it was formally adopted as the British standard in 1935 and regular broadcasts, the first in the world, began in 1937. It is a tribute to Shoenberg's vision and the skills of his team that this standard was to remain in use, apart from the war years, until finally superseded in 1985.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Knighted 1954. Institution of Electrical Engineers Faraday Medal 1954.
Further Reading
A.D.Blumlein et al., 1938, "The Marconi-EMI television system", Journal of the Institution of Electrical Engineers 83:729 (provides a description of the development of the 405-line system).
For more background information, see Proceedings of the International Conference on the History of Television. From Early Days to the Present, November 1986, Institution of Electrical Engineers Publication No. 271.
KF

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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