Friday, February 5, 2016

Birth of Hovhannes Adamian (February 5, 1879)

Our flat TVs would be less colorful if not for a little known Armenian engineer who introduced a device to broadcast color images 91 years ago.

Hovhannes (Ivan) Adamian was the son of an Armenian oil businessman, born in Baku (nowadays Azerbaijan) on February 5, 1879. He was already into science in his school years, and after graduating in 1897, he moved to Europe. He first graduated from the section of chemistry at the University of Zurich, and in 1901 obtained his degree of electrical engineer from the University of Berlin. In those years, he built a laboratory, where he made his first inventions. Maurice Le Blanc had made the first proposal for a color system in television, without any practical details, as early as 1880, and Polish inventor had patented a color television system in 1897, which could not have worked as he described. Adamian made the first attempt to broadcast color images through cable at a distance of 600 kilometers (373 miles) and patented his first television project on March 31, 1908, in Germany, and on April 1, 1908, in Great Britain. Two years later, he patented it in France and in Russia.

In late 1913 the Armenian engineer moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, which would be called Leningrad from 1924 until the fall of the Soviet Union. He created a laboratory by his own means and continued his scientific experiments. In 1920 he wrote: “I have felt the happiness of creative work only here, and now I am happy and satisfied with my cherished wishes, despite all the privations I suffer; I work in a cold room and I am often forced to bring water from far away.”

His two decades of research bore fruits five years later. In February 1925 he presented the first project for a system of continuous color television and made a demonstration at a special laboratory created in Yerevan State University, where he fabricated and operated a device of tricolor broadcast called “Herades” (Հեռատես, “Televisor”) in the presence of a special committee. He succeeded in showing a number of color figures and patterns on a screen, transferred from the laboratory next door. His tricolor principle was the basis for the first experimental color television, shown in London in 1928.
Adamian passed away from liver cancer on September 12, 1932, at the age of 53, in Leningrad. He was buried at the local Armenian cemetery, and his remains were brought to Yerevan and reburied at the Pantheon of famous Armenians in 1970.

Adamian's grave at the Pantheon in Yerevan.