John Logie Baird Collections: a Celebration, Thurs 14th April 2016

In September 2015 the University Library, with generous financial assistance from an anonymous donor, purchased the papers of Benjamin Clapp, a very important part of the story of John Logie Baird: inventor of the television, entrepreneur and University of Glasgow World-Changer.14-04-16-Logie-Baird-crowd-4

The collection was in danger of being sold to a private collection overseas but Iain Logie Baird, grandson of John Logie Baird, became the Collection Champion and contacted the University of Glasgow Library. A businessman from Helensburgh, Baird’s hometown, and a University graduate, donated funds to secure the collection for the University.

An event was held on Thursday 14th April in the Charles Wilson Building which celebrated the procurement of this highly important collection, celebrating their return to John Logie Baird’s Alma Mater and the work he went on to achieve with Benjamin Clapp.
The event included presentations from three speakers:

  • Iain Logie Baird, John Logie Baird’s grandson and Associate Curator at the National Media Museum, Bradford who spoke about his grandfather and his invention.
  • Don Mclean, Glasgow science graduate and electrical engineer who successfully transferred the images from the phonovision disc within the collection (holding the earliest video recording the in the world): a major achievement.
  • Professor Scott Roy, Professor of Electronics, Electronic and Nanoscale Engineering at the University of Glasgow, who talked about the current developments within electrical engineering at the University.

The event also included an exclusive display of the collections the University holds relating to John Logie Baird, including records from the Benjamin Clapp collection.14-04-16-Logie-Baird-perspex-case

Between November 1926 and April 1927 John Logie Baird and his assistant Benjamin Clapp developed the idea of rigging up a receiving station and television receiver in America and transmitting pictures over telephone lines from Baird’s laboratories in London, to Clapp’s house in Surrey and from there, by wireless to the East Coast of the United States of America. They succeeded with the first trans-Atlantic transmission on 9 February 1928.

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From the new Benjamin Clapp collection we displayed items including the earliest Phonovision disc in existence: the world’s earliest surviving video recording, made on 20th Sept 1927; Clapp’s Radio log books for his London receiving station containing correspondence during transmissions which includes the earliest known use of the acronym ‘T.V.’ in an entry dated to 7th Oct 1927; and an expenses diary belonging to Clapp that contains the key to a secret code, used for when corresponding about the early attempts at Trans-Atlantic transmission.

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From the University Archives, highlighting Baird’s connections with the University, we brought the matriculation slip of John Logie Baird from when he studied Engineering at the University in the session 1914-1915; The notebook he used to record lecture notes while he was studying here, gifted to the University in 2014 by Malcolm Baird, son of John Logie Baird; a letter to the University recording a gift from Mr Baird to the University of a model of the original Television Transmitter, 17th Sept 1926; and the record of Baird’s visit to the University’s Engineering Society on 1 March 1928 to deliver a lecture entitled ‘Television’.

Photograph of G.B. Banks, who designed the apparatus, and Baird, operating a ‘Noctovisor’, a device using infra-red rays to transmit the image of a subject not visible to the eye, 1929. (Ref: MS Gen 1601/1)

Photograph of G.B. Banks, who designed the apparatus, and Baird, operating a ‘Noctovisor’, a device using infra-red rays to transmit the image of a subject not visible to the eye, 1929. (Ref: MS Gen 1601/1)

From the Philip Hobson collection, laboratory assistant with the Baird Television Development Company from 1928, the display included the story of ‘Noctovision’: a technique of using infra-red rays to transmit the image of a subject not visible to the eye. Philip Hobson was involved in an, unfortunately, failed demonstration of Noctovision to the Admiralty to show its navigational applications in September 1929. Baird was keen to explore the various applications for television technology.

The event was a great success with fascinating talks from the speakers and great interest in the collections on display. If you would like to find out more about the Baird-related collections held by the University of Glasgow’s Library, please see this webpage under ‘Television’.


You can make an appointment to view the collections, or can ask any questions you might have about them, by e-mailing us on:

Special Collections (for queries about the Hobson or Clapp collections):
Archive Services (for queries about the University records):

Categories: Archive Services, Special Collections

2 replies

  1. Hi J.G. Howie,
    Many thanks for your comment, very interesting to find out about the earlier demonstration in 1924! You are very welome to make an appointment and view the Baird collections any time.
    Best wishes,

  2. I’m very glad these precious materials have been saved. A pity that the work did not lead to manufacture in Scotland pre-war. Your curators should be aware that Baird first demonstrated television to a night school class in, I think, Falkirk in the winter of 1924 (I have seen an interview with the subject, chosen for his prominent facial features, many decades later. This was before the official demonstration in London in 1925. A video recording of the interview featured in the exhibition “TV is King” in Edinburgh in 1996.

    Best wishes,

    J.G.Howie (matric. 1959)

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