Tykociner was born into a Jewish family in Włocławek, a town in the Polish territory then under Russian control. He worked for the Marconi Company in 1901 in London at the time the first radio signal was transmitted across the Atlantic. At the age of eighteen he came to the United States. In New York City he met Nikola Tesla and became an expert in shortwave radio. He received a jeweled gold watch from Czar Nicholas II for setting up a radio communication system for the Russian fleet. He was at St. Petersburg's Helsinki Station when Lenin returned from exile in 1917. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 he worked on radio for the Polish government.
He worked from 1918 to develop a system of recording and reproducing synchronized sound on motion picture film. He became the University of Illinois's first research professor of engineering in 1921. On June 9, 1922, Tykociner publicly demonstrated for the first time a motion picture with a soundtrack optically recorded directly onto the film. In the first sounds ever publicly heard from a composite image-and-audio film, Helena Tykociner, the inventor's wife, spoke the words, "I will ring," and then rang a bell. Next, Ellery Paine, head of the university's Department of Electrical Engineering, recited the Gettysburg Address. The demonstration was written up in the New York World on July 30, 1922. A dispute between Tykociner and university president David Kinley over patent rights to the process thwarted its commercial application.
Tykonicer applied for a patent shortly before the public demonstration. The patent was awarded in 1926. In 1919, Lee De Forest filed patents for his sound-on-film process Phonofilm, unaware of Tykociner's work. DeForest, working with Theodore Case, produced several short films in 1921 and 1922, and introduced Phonofilm at a presentation at the Rivoli Theater in New York City on April 15, 1923. Case and DeForest had a falling out, and Case took his patents to William Fox, who used Case's patents to develop Fox Movietone.
After his official retirement in 1946, he did research in a new field he termed "zetetics," (not to be confused with zeteticism, Marcello Truzzi's term for scientific skepticism), the study of the science of research and the relationship between science and art. When he died in 1969 in Urbana, Illinois, his estate and papers were left to the university. The Tykociner Memorial Lectures began in 1972 with a lecture by Dennis Gabor. Other distinguished scientists and artists spoke on the relationship between science and the arts including Leon Cooper, Leon Lederman and Freeman Dyson through 1998. In 2002, the lectures were changed to weekly lectures in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
-  Moone, Tom, "Joseph Tykociner: Pioneer of sound on film" Ingenuity. University of Illinois Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. retrieved Dec. 17, 2006
-  The Joseph Tykociner Commemorative Website, based on the forthcoming book "Out of Sync:The Life of Joseph Tykociner, "Father of The Talkies"" by Paul Doering. retrieved Dec. 17, 2006
- Tykociner, Joseph T., "Photographic recording and photoelectric reproduction of sound," Trans. SMPE, no. 16, 90-119, 1923. cited in  Kellogg, Edward W., History of Sound Motion Pictures, First Installment. Journal of the SMPTE, 1955, June, pp. 291-302. retrieved Dec. 17, 2006
- Almost untold."Joseph Tykociński-Tykociner (1877-1969), Pioneer of Sound on Film." appeared in: Newsletter "Gazeta" published by the American Association for Polish-Jewish Studies, Vol. 13, No. 3 (Winter-Spring 2006), p. 6. retrieved Dec. 17, 2006
- Tykociner, Joseph T. "Outline of Zetetics." Publisher: Dorrance (1971). Language: English. ISBN 0-8059-1570-2
- Tykociner, Joseph.T. "Zetetics and its relation to education and research." Publisher: Engineering Publications Office, University of Illinois (1968). Language: English. ASIN: B0007HNLG6
-  Finding Aid to the Joseph T. Tykociner Papers, 1877-1969 retrieved Dec. 17, 2006
-  The Tykociner Memorial Lectures at the University of Illinois' Champaign-Urbana Campus. retrieved Dec. 17, 2006
-  University of Illinois film, showing five second clip at beginning from Tykociner 1922 sound on film demo.