David Sarnoff


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US broadcaster and businessman, who pioneered the development of radio and television in the USA.

Born in southern Russia, Sarnoff travelled with his mother and younger brothers at the age of nine to join his father, who had emigrated to the USA. His first job was that of delivery boy, and his life continued to display a rags-to-riches element. He became a wireless operator and met Marconi in 1906. Foreseeing the multiple possibilities of radio, he became commercial manager of American Marconi in 1917, having already predicted that radio would become ‘a household utility in the same sense as the piano or phonograph’. Sarnoff went on to join the new Radio Corporation of America, successor to the Marconi group, in 1919, and became its general manager in 1921 and its president in 1930. He remained chairman and chief executive until 1950, controlling his empire with vigour and enthusiasm and steering it into the world of television, first black and white, then colour. He also worked through the National Broadcasting Corporation, the first American broadcasting network, founded in 1926. Sarnoff was known as much for his ‘wisdom’, collected in book form, as for his willingness to take risks and his drive.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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