Sarnoff, David

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Sarnoff, David

David Sarnoff, 1891–1971, American pioneer in radio and television, b. Russia. Emigrating to the United States in 1900, he worked for the Marconi Wireless Company, winning recognition as the narrator of the news of the Titanic disaster (1912). In 1915, he proposed a "radio music box" that led to radio broadcasting as it is known today. The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) absorbed the Marconi firm in 1921, and Sarnoff became general manager. As president (after 1930) and eventually chief executive officer (1947–66) and chairman of the board (1947–70) of RCA, he helped develop black-and-white and compatible color television. In 1944, the Television Broadcaster's Association gave Sarnoff the title "Father of American Television," a moniker appropriate for his contribution to the development of commercial television broadcasting but misleading in terms of the development of television technology. He served Dwight D. Eisenhower in World War II as adviser on communications. Active in public affairs, he was often a spokesman for the broadcasting industry.

See R. Sobel, RCA (1986); K. Bilby, The General: David Sarnoff and the Rise of the Communications Industry (1986).

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