Utah Sen. Todd Weiler is sponsoring a Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR001) that starts the process of replacing the statue of Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of TV, in the U.S. Capitol Building with a statue of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, an early leader and proponent of the right of women to vote. The measure passed a Senate committee and is on its way to the full Senate.
Each state is allowed two statues of their citizens “who are known for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military service” in the Capitol.”
Farnsworth spent much of his time in Utah, including attending Brigham Young University, while developing the concepts and designs of what became the basis for the accepted standard of television. He was almost alone in his efforts but he succeeded in proving that his design worked. He fought against one of the most powerful industry titans who tried to steal Philo’s invention for his company. He was one of the last individual inventors of the last century in the spirit of lone inventors like John Browning and Nikola Tesla.
Most inventions after 1940 were developed by large teams of scientists and engineers. But with the development of the internet, the ability of one person or a small group to make a big difference and change the culture has significantly increased. Google, Facebook, Amazon and many other startups with innovative ideas have succeeded in changing the world with their ideas and businesses. Philo Farnsworth should be the patron saint of individuals with a dream to build a culturally significant system (even one as culturally controversial as TV).
The internet makes it easy to take an idea to fruition and major development quickly. Payroll, administration, finances, accounting, even design and manufacturing can all be farmed out to companies and workers on the internet. Facebook was started by one person and look where it is now.
The proposed statue is to honor Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, an early advocate of allowing women to vote. Utah granted women to vote in 1870, according to some historians, to counter the influx of non-Mormons coming into Utah. But the nation rescinded the right in 1887. Cannon temporarily left the U.S. in order to not help the prosecution of her polygamous husband. She returned with the adoption of the Utah Constitution in 1896 and she was elected a state senator. She was also a doctor and an advocate for sanitation and public health.
The legislative resolution says: ”Dr. Cannon’s faith, resolve, vision, and tireless efforts deserve the highest honors the state can bestow.” If the resolution passes, it directs the governor to facilitate the creation of a nonprofit organization that would collect funds to pay for the statue to be placed at the U.S. Capitol on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave all women in the country the right to vote. The statue of Philo T. Farnsworth would be moved to the Utah State Capitol
Other individuals who have had a great impact on this world and on our society could have been considered. Dr. Ivan Sutherland originated and developed the graphical user interface that replaced text commands in computers with picture and symbol buttons. Everyone with a smartphone uses his system hundreds of times a day. John Browning, arguably, helped this country win two world wars by single handedly developing small arms that are still used and popular today, over a hundred years later.
A statue should encourage those who view it, to respect and emulate and aspire to the level of the actions and accomplishments of the statue’s real life person. Philo T. Farnsworth’s statue can inspire those who view it, including school children and students, to understand that one person can make difference, a big difference.
We should be encouraging leaders in science and engineering, not just in politics. The statue of Utah’s Philo T. Farnsworth should continue to represent Utah at the U.S. Capitol. I’d rather not see another statue of a politician, even one that I respect as much as Sen. Todd Weiler.
George Chapman is a former candidate for mayor of Salt Lake City and writes a blog at georgechapman.net.