Eugene Polley

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Eugene Polley
Eugene J. Polley

November 29, 1915
DiedMay 20, 2012 (aged 96)
EducationCity Colleges of Chicago, Armour Institute of Technology
Engineering career
Employer(s)Zenith Electronics
1935 - 1982
ProjectsRadar, Push-button car radio, Video disks
Significant designWireless remote control for televisions
AwardsTechnology & Engineering Emmy Award (1997); IEEE Consumer Electronics Award (2009)

Eugene Polley (November 29, 1915 – May 20, 2012) was an engineer and engineering manager for Zenith Electronics and most widely known for inventing the first wireless remote control for television.

Life and career[edit]

Eugene J. Polley was born November 29, 1915 in Chicago, Illinois; He attended the City Colleges of Chicago and Armour Institute of Technology,[1] but left before graduating.[2] In 1935, he was hired as a stock boy for Zenith Electronics; he moved to the company's parts department, where he created the company's first catalog, then transferred to engineering, where his assignments included work on radar during World War II for the U.S. Department of Defense.[1]

His 1955 invention, marketed as the Flash-Matic, used visible light to remotely control a television outfitted with four photo cells in the cabinet at the corners of the screen. Aiming the pistol-shaped control at an individual photocell could turn the receiver on and off, mute the sound and change the channel up or down.[3][4] Polley also worked on the push-button car radio and contributed to the development of video disks.[1]

Polley's career at Zenith included positions as a product engineer and mechanical engineer. Polley later managed its Video Recording Group, then its Advanced Mechanical Design Group; he eventually became Assistant Division Chief for Zenith's Mechanical Engineering Group. He retired after a 47-year career[1] in which he earned 18 U.S. patents.[4]

Polley and Robert Adler shared a 1996–1997 Technology & Engineering Emmy Award for "Pioneering Development of Wireless Remote Control for Consumer Television."[4][5]

In 2009, Polley received the IEEE Consumer Electronics Award "for contributions to the technology of the wireless remote control for television and other consumer electronic products."[6]


Polley died on May 20, 2012 at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Chicago. His death was announced by Zenith Electronics, for whom he worked from 1935 to 1982.[7] He was 96.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e TV Remote Control Inventor Eugene Polley, 1915-2012, a May 21, 2012 Zenith press release via Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  2. ^ TV remote's father doesn't click for all Archived September 9, 2012, at, a February 5, 2006 article from the Chicago Tribune, via Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  3. ^ "Eugene Polley". The Daily Telegraph. London. May 23, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c TV remote control inventor Eugene Polley dies at 96, a May 22, 2012 article from BBC News. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  5. ^ Outstanding Achievement in Technical/Engineering Development Awards from National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  6. ^ IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award (list from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved 2012-05-22.
  7. ^ Slodysko, Brian (May 23, 2012). "Polley dies at 96". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 23, 2012.