David Sarnoff

David Sarnoff

Leader of American telecommunications
Date of Birth: 27.02.1891
Country: USA

Biography of David Sarnoff

David Sarnoff was an American businessman and pioneer of American radio and television broadcasting. He was born on February 27, 1891, in the small Belarusian town of Uzlyany to Abraham and Leah Sarnoff. Coming from a large Jewish family struggling to make ends meet, Sarnoff grew up immersed in Torah studies, with hopes of becoming a rabbi.

David Sarnoff

In 1900, Sarnoff and his mother, three brothers, and sister immigrated to New York City, joining his father who had previously made the journey. Sarnoff worked tirelessly to support his family, selling newspapers before and after school. After his father became disabled due to tuberculosis in 1906, Sarnoff dropped out of school and found work. Originally planning to pursue a career in the newspaper business, he serendipitously landed a job as an office boy at the Commercial Cable Company.

David Sarnoff

When his supervisor refused to grant Sarnoff a paid day off for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, he left and joined the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America, launching his over 60-year career in electronic communications. Over the next 13 years, Sarnoff advanced from a messenger to a commercial director, gaining firsthand knowledge of electronic communication technologies and business practices through practical experience and extensive library research. He also worked on ship decks and telegraph offices in Nantucket and the New York department store Wanamaker.

David Sarnoff

In 1911, Sarnoff installed and adjusted wireless communication equipment on a seal hunting ship, utilizing the technology to transmit a medical diagnosis from the ship's doctor to a patient, a radio operator stationed on an island off the coast of Labrador. The following year, he allegedly spent three days at the telegraph key receiving updates on the fate of the Titanic. However, modern researchers question the veracity of this claim, as Sarnoff held a managerial position in 1912 and thus would not have been required to be on duty in the radio room.

Sarnoff was the first to conceive of equipping railways with radio equipment, and during World War I, he served as the commercial director, overseeing the operations of American Marconi's factories. When Owen D. Young of General Electric Company orchestrated the purchase of American Marconi, transforming it into the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Sarnoff attracted attention and predicted the potential growth of demand for radio broadcasting. When his prediction came true, he became one of the most influential figures within the company and eventually assumed the role of CEO in 1930. While Sarnoff is sometimes credited as the founder of RCA and NBC, this is inaccurate. However, his role in the emergence and promotion of television cannot be underestimated. It is possible that David Sarnoff was the driving force behind the rapid adoption of television in post-war America, as he fearlessly financed and nurtured Vladimir Zworykin's television project, earning him the title of the godfather of American television.

In July 1917, Sarnoff married Lizette Hermant, the daughter of French Jewish immigrants who lived near his mother. Their strong and happy marriage lasted for 54 years until his death on December 12, 1971, a year after his retirement. They had three sons, with their eldest, Robert W. Sarnoff, succeeding his father as the leader of RCA in 1971.

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