Did Henry Sutton invent television in 1885?

Henry Sutton portraitHenry who? When? Until today, I had never heard of Henry Sutton (1856-1912). He was an Australian inventor of telephones, lightbulbs, and yes, in 1885 he developed plans for a mechanical television that he called a telephane. It used no active elements or amplification of any sort. (Thermionic emission from a heated filament — “the Edison effect” — had just been discovered and the triode vacuum tube wasn’t invented until about 1910.)

In the drawing, note the oil lamp! This discussion reveals as much detail as I’ve found. I agree with the consensus that merely publishing a plan doesn’t qualify as “inventing” a device. Close, but no cigar. However, he certainly deserves a gold star for imagination and creativity.

telephane illustration
Henry Sutton’s Telephane, 1885

The idea of a spinning opaque disc with a “window” was used in subsequent television designs, up through the original FCC-approved CBS color TV system c 1950!

Read more about this prolific inventor at australiangeographic.com.au

large portrait: Lorayne Branch

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

4 thoughts on “Did Henry Sutton invent television in 1885?”

  1. It is always great when a new person learns about Henry I am currently writing a book about his life and inventions there is so much more for everyone to learn and know he was a pretty amazing man.

    Henry’s Great Granddaughter
    Lorayne Branch


    1. How nice of you to comment, Lorayne! I confess complete ignorance of your great grandfather. I’m in awe of his prescient imagination evidenced by his 1885 telephane. Please let us know when you publish your book.

      Do you live near Henry Sutton’s residence?



  2. Hi Russ, No I don’t live near where Henry lived I live in Queensland I will put you on my contact list for the completion of the book I think you will find it a very interesting and informative read. You will be amazed at the people he met and knew such as Nikola Tesla and Lord Rayleigh and Joseph Swan.



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