Talk:Lee de Forest

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'de Forest', not 'De Forest[edit]

This may seem unimportant, but people get kinda funny when it comes to names.

I believe Lee's last name is 'de Forest', not 'De Forest'. I googled around and couldn't find anything diffinitive, so I'm not making the change without posting here first. Crag 00:21, 23 March 2006 (UTC)

It may be correct in French, but I think the capital D is what he used. Arniep 21:17, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

I have three autograhs from various periods in his life and I have inspected several other autographs. As far as I can tell, he always signed his name "Lee de Forest."FLAHAM (talk) 17:44, 31 August 2009 (UTC)

From page 365 of Tom Lewis' 1991 book, Empire of the Air: "Perceptive readers will notice that Lee de Forest spelled his name with a lowercase d, while his father, and the De Forest family, used an uppercase letter. Lee decided upon a lower case while at Yale, but his name was often spelled 'De Forest' up to the time of his death." Also, in his 1950 autobiography, Father of Radio, a footnote on page 12 reads "My father and grandfather preferred to capitalize the D. While at Yale my brother and I resumed the style of the earlier generations." Thomas H. White 19:56, 2 September 2006 (UTC)
So out of respect for Mr. de Forest's preferences, we should switch to a lower-case 'd' when it doesn't begin a sentence, right? Crag 22:30, 30 April 2007 (UTC)

His name is Lee de Forest, not De Forest. Which means "De Forest" should redirect to "de Forest", not the other way around. His wiki page should be Lee de Forest. 21 Dec. 2009 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:25, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

The name on his gravestone:


and below that his and his wife's first names, LEE and MARIE

from this site:

I reviewed a few of the patents for information about which spelling he used. Some of the patents only had his name spelled out in all caps. In at least one of the patents his name was spelled with the de in small caps.

Overall, a cursory review of what I could find on this issue seems to support the notion that the title of the article should be Lee de Forest, however I would guess that he never changed the name on his birth certificate and that was probably Lee De Forest and so theoretically his legal name might have been Lee De Forest. And the "This is Your Life" episode that he was featured on spelled his name with the De capitalized.

Right now, my vote would go for the lower case spelling, but I suspect the world doesn't hang on this issue. Davefoc (talk) 20:43, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

Do you think Council Bluffs, Iowa issued birth certificates in 1873?? FLAHAM (talk) 01:44, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

I don't know, I thought they would have to tell you the truth. I assumed that birth certificates have been around for a long time. But even if they hadn't been, there were other potentially official ways of documenting a person's name near the time of his birth like church records. And if some official way of recording his birth existed it seems likely it used the capital De spelling that his parents used and it also seems likely that he never officially changed his name.
However this isn't a very good argument for the use of his name with the de capitalized since the Wikipedia standard seems to be to use the name that a person is most well known by as the title of the article regardless of any lesser known more official name. And I think your evidence is fairly compelling that "Lee de Forest" is the best choice if that is the criteria. So I agree with you that the title of the article should be changed.Davefoc (talk) 09:57, 24 December 2009 (UTC)

Unsourced addition[edit]

I removed this until someone can provide a source.

However, it should be noted that De Forest actually, only developed a rough idea for this and that the system was actually created by Auburn, NY native Theodore Case who is now credited by many as being the true inventer of sound on film and therefore, many talking movies. Deforest, just as he did with the F.M. radio pretty much stole the idea and took all credit for it.

Arniep 21:16, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

DeForest patents[edit]

It does not do much good to post raw numbers for people who do not have TIFF software that can display US Patent images. DeForest is credited with many patents, and only the most important ones should be listed in the article. Please post bare numbers here so they can be evaluated for inclusion. If the intention is to list all of his patents, they would be better stored at Wikimedia, which is designed to archive such non-contextual data. --Blainster 17:20, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Quicktime allows tiff viewing. QT is pretty common. DeForest is credited with many patents, and they all should be listed (eventually like Edison's patents and Tesla's patents). 19:28, 29 June 2006 (UTC) (PS., "lists of patents" is a legal topic and there is a category for them.)

WP must serve all its users. If you wish to continue to post patents, please also list some basic information such as title, date, and subject along with the number. (Or are you unable to view them?) --Blainster 19:35, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Audion tube[edit]

The first version of the Audion was a diode developed in 1906. It was not until a year later that DeForest came up with the triode version, which most people are referring to when they use the term. He used the same name for both types of tubes, which can be confusing. --Blainster 14:36, 26 August 2006 (UTC)

De Forest took credit for the Audion which was invented by Edwin H. Armstrong, a vacuum tube that takes relatively weak electrical signals and amplifies them. -- THe article lists both. Which is it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:59, 8 July 2009 (UTC)

More info in PBS Documentary - lowers de Forest reputation[edit]

I recently watched "Empire of the Air", a Ken Burns documentary. Lots of DeForest information in there that definitely makes one think the introductory paragraph of this article should probably not be so pro-deforest but more independent. One point was that during testimony he couldnt explain how some of his inventions worked, not really knowing, just copying others' work, adding stuff, "hey, it did something!" and patenting it.

My Dad was the youngest & last employee hired at DeForest Labs. His name was Edward Henry Scott. He passed on several years ago. I grew up around Craig Kregbaum and Harold Wolf, early employees who worked with Dr. DeForest (or de Forest if you prefer). I suspect that Doc DeForest as he was known in my family chose to convert his name to DeForest for purposes of the company name, thinking that "de" was not a good way to start a company name. Everyone who worked for DeForest Labs had good things to say about Doc. His employees were very loyal to Doc. As far as I know Ken Burns never contacted anyone who actually worked for DeForest Labs when he made the PBS documentary. My Dad saw the Ken Burns' documentary as was a little offended by it pointing out that it seemed to paint an overly glowing picture of Armstrong, who as he said beat his wife with fire irons and ultimately jumped out of a window. FM was a very significant invention, but Armstrong was no great work as a human being.

Having known guys like Kregbaum who built very early tubes for DeForest used before and during WWI, I'd have to say that much of conjecture about "invention of the tube" presupposes that you needed to be fully conversant in theory of electronics in order to invent anything. Well, the fact was that electronic theory didn't yet exist. Kregbaum was fantastically talented inventor. I don't think he had any college but he invented and built many clever things. That was the nature of the times. They were tinkerers and fabricators of new gizmos, not teaching electronics courses at the university. They lived and breathed radio. I do not mean to disparage Ken Burns or his documentary on early day radio. I am actually a very big fan of most of what Ken Burns has accomplished. I think maybe though the PBS documentary treated Doc DeForest less favorably than my Dad felt about him or than learned from those early guys like Craig Kregbaum and Harold Wolf. They would not have known Doc as he was portrayed in the PBS documentary. Nobody I ever met who worked at DeForest Lab ever had anything bad to say about Doc. He was much loved by those who worked for him. That is at least something Armstrong could not claim I suspect.

My Dad went on to work as the Radio Officer for the City of Glendale, California where he put in the first microwave communications system for police and fire departments. As a result of doing that, both Motorola and RCA wanted to hire him as a systems engineer despite the fact that he had gone to college during the Great Depression and had to drop out after only one year because there was no money for college. He first went to work for Motorola but eventually switched to RCA where he enjoyed doing systems engineering in 2-way radio systems. Working with RCA factory engineers they solved many difficult 2-way radio problems at places like Scripps Institute of Oceanography and open pit copper mines. My Dad passed on several years ago.

Doc DeForest wrote a book on his own life and accomplishments. I would imagine that Ken Burns must have used it but felt that Doc wrote too favorable an account of his own life. Maybe he did ... I doubt anyone will really know for sure today. But what I can definitively say is that Doc was extremely well liked by everyone I ever met who worked for him. They all said DeForest Labs was the greatest place they ever worked.

I have a BSEE myself but my work was in computer hardware, software and systems engineering. - Ed Scott — Preceding unsigned comment added by TaosFarmer (talkcontribs) 04:30, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Tigerstedt's sound-on-film implementation and development of the triode vacuum valve[edit]

The Finnish inventor Eric Tigerstedt (credited with being the first to successfully implement sound-on-film) made dramatic improvements to the triode vacuum valve while working on a solution for sound amplification. While working in Berlin, Germany, Tigerstedt was awarded a German patent his for sound-on-film technology, which Lee De Forest seems to have built his subsequent sound-on-film implementation on. Does this warrant a reference in the article on Lee de Forest? --Grimne 23:47, 15 February 2007 (CET)


I deleted the bit about his parents' being born in France, based on (or, click the pedigree link) 17:57, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

moved non sequitor from article[edit]

"Charles Herrold began broadcasting music and entertainment on a regular basis between 1912 and 1917 to fellow radio enthusiasts in the San Jose, California area, using the callsigns FN and SJN, but had to abandon broadcasting when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917."

You mention that you studied de Forest in a college class. Did you take an English class to earn that lofty degree? If so you would know that the previous posts would have been "too" (not "to") hard on de Forest. You might also have learned that to agree with something is to "jibe with" (not "jive with").

Other than those two ignorant mistakes, your evaluation of the legacy of Lee de Forest is correct. He was a fake and should have landed in prison.

Of course we all understand that someone as important as yourself "doesn't have time to do the research...." That is what makes Wikipedia great: a million under-educated morons with no time and no knowledge writing illiterate articles. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:47, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

To hard on De forest[edit]

We studied this once upon a time in a college class. My memory of that study does not at all jive with this article, though I don't have the time to do the research. Specifically, my recollection is that De Forest stumbled upon (invented or re-invented) an amp in the lab but could not explain mathematically how it worked on the stand. He lost early court cases when others with a better theoretical understanding could explain the devices operation. Broke Back Records (talk) 21:03, 6 March 2008 (UTC)

Lunar Crater[edit]

There is a lunar crater named de Forest (approx. 160 W, 78 S). Is it named for Lee de Forest? If so, it ought to be listed in the Legacy section. Rglovejoy (talk) 22:00, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Diode vs. Triode tubes[edit]

The statement about the Audion/triode, "an improved version of John Fleming's recently invented diode vacuum tube detector." is not correct. The triode is not an "improvement" in that it works better than a diode tube, in fact it does a different function. The diode rectifies current (like a solid state diode) and the triode is the vacuum tube equivalent of a transister (or transient resistor).

Tsbrownie (talk) 06:18, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

You're right, of course. The next paragraph talks about the foundational differences between the diode and the triode, so I've cut some of the redundancy out of the earlier paragraph. More to the point, I reworded the phrase "an improved version of..." Hopefully, this edit will help fix the problem. Binksternet (talk) 09:07, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

This section is confusing:

In January 1907, De Forest filed a patent for a two-electrode device for detecting electromagnetic waves, a variant of the Fleming valve invented two years earlier, AKA the diode vacuum tube detector. It was granted US Patent 879,532 in February 1908. It was a three-electrode device (plate, cathode, control grid), was a vacuum tube. It was also called the De Forest valve, and since 1919 has been known as the triode. De Forest's innovation was the insertion of a third electrode, the grid, in between the cathode (filament) and the anode (plate) of the previously invented diode.

The two electrode device was presumably a diode. US Patent 879,532 seems to be for the triode. It is possible that the first sentence was suppose to read:

In January 1907, De Forest filed a patent for a three-electrode device for detecting electromagnetic waves, a variant of the Fleming valve invented two years earlier, AKA the diode vacuum tube detector.

The section would make sense with this change, but I am not sure that the change is accurate. Did de Forest ever patent an improvement of the diode or did he patent a new device that would be come known as the triode? Is the author of this section claiming that de Forest both invented an improved diode and then later a triode vacuum tube that could be used as an amplifier or is he just trying to say that de Forest invented the triode? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Davefoc (talkcontribs) 15:34, 22 April 2009 (UTC)

Firstfoxbat edited the section in question. The section now makes sense and the criticism above seems to have been dealt with. It seems that De Forest patented both a diode and a triode. I think this issue is now closed. Davefoc (talk) 17:44, 22 October 2009 (UTC)


According to the book " 100 Great Scientists" published by Washington Square Press page 390 Forest was paid by the ATT a sum of three hundred and ninety thousand dollars for the audion tube.Subzbharti (talk) 10:03, 30 March 2010 (UTC)


The article implies that de Forest invented the word "radio." This is entirely inaccurate. FLAHAM (talk) 20:12, 7 July 2011 (UTC)

As a descendant of lee, it is spelled DeForest[edit]

as a descendant of lee it is spelled DeForest, no spaces or hyphens, as shown in the link below. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:00, 20 February 2012 (UTC)

AES presentation by Mike Adams, SJSU[edit]

This historical session at the Audio Engineering Society convention was very informative. Adams should be used as a source. Binksternet (talk) 17:50, 28 October 2012 (UTC)

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This article has multiple issues like the article Audion[edit]

This article also claims similar impractical theories like the Audion article and thus needs a major rewrite.

Both articles claim that de Forest invented the vacuum tube but this is entirely wrong. He invented a gas filled tube with three electrodes that could be used as a switch but not as an amplifier.

His first demonstration of the tube was a disaster because of the significant distortion produced by the gas in his tube.

As he believed that the gas is needed for the amplification, he is not the inventor of the vacuum triode. This was rather Robert von Lieben who invented the vacuum tube in 1910 and the Lieben valve made long distance calls possible. De Forest may be the trailblazer for the idea to add a third electrode, but definitely not the inventor of the vacuum tube.

He is also not the inventor of the sound film. This is rather Hans Vogt, who made the first public performance on September 17 1922 in the movie theater "Alhambra" at Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. See: [1] Schily (talk) 11:34, 22 November 2016 (UTC)

Please provide reliable sources instead of stating your opinion (BTW historical plaques are not reliable sources... they can, and do, say almost anything). So far reliable sources say you are incorrect (History of Wireless, page 100-101). Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 13:39, 22 November 2016 (UTC)
Please provide reliable sources instead of your opinions. A book that claims the de Forest valve is a vacuum tube is obviously not a reliable source. False claims like this seem to be specific to US sources. A vacuum tube is a tube with a negligible amount of gas inside while the de Forest tube intentionally contained gas of low pressure as a result of the incorrect assumptions from de Forest.
Regarding sound film: de Forest lived in Berlin while Hans Vogt and his friends invented the sound film. De Forest was in Berlin to learn from Hans Vogt. Even this article mentions that de Forest left Berlin in September 1922 - obviously after he attended the first sound film performance. Schily (talk) 14:01, 22 November 2016 (UTC)
The original de Forest Audion was a vacuum-tube device, although it was not fully evacuated, which led to limitations that were not fully resolved until others developed "hard vacuum" tubes. However, it was, to a limited degree, an amplifier of radio signals, unlike the earlier Fleming valve.
The von Lieben "LRS Relay" was an improvement of the original Audion, and, unlike the original Audion, was successfully used as a telephone-line repeater to a limited extent. However, it also used mecury vapors in its operation, and like the original Audion was soon replaced by hard vacuum tubes.
Von Lieben's work is covered in detail in "Saga of the Vacuum Tube" by Gerald F. J. Tyne. His summary, from pages 239-240 of that book, notes that: "The LRS relay was used for a time as a telephone repeater in Germany, but it was not satisfactory. It had several drawbacks. The relay was, like all ionization devices, undesirably noisy. The filament was subject to bombardment by the positive ions in the mercury vapor, which tended to knock off the oxide coating... Most of these disadvantages are common to all devices which use mercury vapor." Tyne also refers to the LRS relay as a "gaseous repeater", before reviewing the later development of "hard vacuum" tubes in Germany.Thomas H. White (talk) 14:43, 22 November 2016 (UTC)
The gas in the de Forest tube was intentional and caused the known problems. The mercury vapor in the Lieben tube was a result of the imperfect pumps at that time. Mercury diffusion pumps with cold traps fixed that problem. In other words the intention of the Lieben tube was correct but the technology was imperfect. Schily (talk) 15:47, 22 November 2016 (UTC)
All the sources I have access to agree that the LRS relay was designed to operate using mercury vapor, thus the existence of the mercury was not just the result of imperfect evacuation. The Liebenröhre-Nachbildung page has information on the device and its patent. Included at the bottom of the tube is a small reservoir of mercury, which, when heated, provided additional vapor when needed. Also, please include some references with additional information for us to review that support your assertions.Thomas H. White (talk) 18:04, 22 November 2016 (UTC)
Then you are talking about the Lieben tube for that the patent has been filed on March 6 1906 and that was a "gas filled" tube similar to the de Forest tube. This is something that should be mentioned in the articles for de Forest, von Lieben and the Audion, in special as de Forest filed his patent later in 1906. Unfortunately it seems to be hard to find reliable information about what happened between 1912 and 1920 when Osram started the vacuum tube mass production for Telefunken in Berlin Sickingenstraße. Schily (talk) 11:56, 24 November 2016 (UTC)
De Forest did not understand how the vacuum tube worked, but that lack of understanding does not deny an invention. The understanding of conduction (and whether gas ions were needed for conduction) was a research topic at the time; several prominent scientists had discordant views. De Forest used equipment to draw a good vacuum for the time. It is not clear that De Forest could get a better vacuum with his production equipment, but it is clear that De Forest had a good enough vacuum to make a functioning triode. De Forest's original circuits did not bias the grid, but IIRC De Forest was credited with DC biasing the grid in subsequent circuits. Armstrong certainly understood the biasing issues in an early paper, and Armstrong's paper used audions as the vacuum tubes. Armstrong's preferred biasing did not rely on residual ions. It wasn't until Irving Langmuir used a diffusion pump to draw a hard vacuum was the thermionic emission issue settled; residual ions were not needed. Even then, Langmuir lost the patent battle for General Electric's hard vacuum tube to De Forest and Federal who were already using hard vacuum tubes. De Forest and Federal sought to eliminate the audion's blue glow discharge at higher plate voltages, and they did that by drawing a harder vacuum. Soft vacuum audions were limited to low plate voltages (say 22 V); Federal's hard vacuum allowed higher plate voltages. De Forest's company sold two types of audion: a soft vacuum audion that could be a sensitive detector for weak signals and a hard vacuum audion that was a modern vacuum tube. Glrx (talk) 20:11, 30 November 2016 (UTC)
De Forest did not try to get a better vacuum because his intend was not to create a vacuum tube. He believed that the gas is needed for the function. Schily (talk) 12:46, 1 December 2016 (UTC)
You need sources for such statements. De Forest knew that insufficient vacuum caused the blue glow at a lower voltage. There are letters from De Forest to McCandless in 1912 complaining about insufficient vacuum in a batch of audions. Allowing higher voltage operation for amplifiers meant a need for even higher vacuum. General Electric v De Forest Radio, 23 F.2d 698. Arnold, Millikan, Jewett, and Colpitts knew what to do to eliminate blue glow, and Arnold promptly reduced to practice to gain a November 1912 priority. The advantages of a hard vacuum were known in 1898; Fleming, in a 1905 lecture, 1905 patent, and 1906 Scientific American article, wanted a vacuum of 0.01 micron -- which is lower than Langmuir's later claims. De Forest Radio v General Electric (1931) 283 US 684. Glrx (talk) 01:36, 2 December 2016 (UTC)
You are mixing things that do not belong together. We are talking about the Audion which is from 1906 and this was a tube that had intentional gas inside. In 1912, people did know that a vacuum tube is better than a gas filled tube like the Audion. Around 1913, the diffusion pump with cold trap was invented and allowed to create a sufficient vacuum. Let me repeat, to make it obvious why this article needs a rewrite: De Forest is claimed to have been the inventor of the vacuum triode in 1906 but this is definitely wrong. Schily (talk) 11:19, 2 December 2016 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── To get back to the original claims in this talk it should be noted this article does not claim de Forest invented the vacuum tube nor does it claim he invented the vacuum triode. It also does not claim he is the inventor of sound on film (and explains Eric Tigerstedt and Tri-Ergon). So I do not see a need for any kind of rewrite, let alone a "major" one. Triode has been cleaned up (by me and further by Chetvorno) to reflect what sources do say: The first triodes were independent inventions by de Forest and von Lieben but others developed the device (because de Forest did not envision their ultimate application and von Lieben fell off his horse and never fully recovered). There is a further claim that the Triode was developed directly from de Forest's Audion, so far references seem to support that. We simply can not make the claim "Robert von Lieben invented the vacuum tube in 1910" (that would be Fleming) nor can we credit him with invention of the triode per WP:YESPOV bullet #2.

I would say Audion needs to be synchronized with this cleanup but we are pretty much done at this article and at Triode (with maybe a little tweaking). Fountains of Bryn Mawr (talk) 16:22, 2 December 2016 (UTC)

Agree. @Schily: Here are sources that say De Forest invented the triode: [2], [3], [4], [5], [6] Where are the sources supporting your contention that he didn't? --ChetvornoTALK 20:42, 2 December 2016 (UTC)
It seems that you missed the point. While it is more or less agreed that he invented the triode, he did not invent the vacuum triode. Schily (talk) 13:33, 5 December 2016 (UTC)

General Nitpicking[edit]

Re; section: Phonofilm sound-on-film process, fifth paragraph, next to last sentence. "Hollywood introduced a competing method for sound film, the Vitaphone sound-on-disc process developed by Warner Brothers, with the August 6, 1926 release of the John Barrymore film Don Juan."


Before I make any changes to this, I'd like some thoughts from other, more experienced ( and active ) editors. Personally I feel that the term Hollywood is overused in general, in this instance it's nonsensical. Hollywood didn't introduce sound in any way that I know of, rather competing companies developed sound film systems independent of each other and the motion picture industry and then tried to sell the industry on them. As stated in this section de Forest demonstrated his system in New York and was rejected by the major film companies and was forced to show his films in independent theaters, all outside of Hollywood. I haven't been able to confirm this through related WP articles, but it seems I remember reading that both Don Juan and The Jazz Singer were filmed in the NYC area (Brooklyn, Astoria ??? ), and premiered in New York. Most if not all R&D work for sound film systems, from Edison to the systems mentioned in this article was done outside Hollywood. I realize that Hollywood is used broadly for the motion picture industry, but considering that the film industry as a whole avoided earlier sound film systems, and only converted to sound after Fox and WB proved that profits were to be made with sound, and for the other reasons I've given, to say Hollywood introduced sound in any is IMHO, at best misleading and inaccurate.

Now as to this bit that WB developed Western Electric's sound on disc system, nice try, but totally and completely wrong. Related WP articles, multiple film histories and biographies, etc. contradict this.

Any input would be welcome. Thanks, Jonel469 (talk) 13:35, 23 May 2017 (UTC)

De Forest was best known for his work in radio, and I suspect most editors (myself included) don't know very much about the development of sound movies. So I don't see any reason why you wouldn't want to go ahead and add your changes to make that section more accurate.Thomas H. White (talk) 17:46, 25 May 2017 (UTC)

Thank you,THW, I'll try, the issue isn't that I don't want to, I just really suck at it. Jonel469 (talk) 12:45, 27 May 2017 (UTC) Here's two references for Vitaphone. Wiki Vitaphone art,gives Sperling, Miller, and Warner 1998 pg. 111 as a reference for WE R&D before WB bought the rights. I'll look for some references on the other points later. Any one who would like to re-write the part I've given references for, please,please do. Thanks again. Jonel469 (talk) 12:45, 27 May 2017 (UTC)

Reworded and added references, last sentence of the 6th paragraph. Other parts of this section still need references though. I'll leave the other usages of "Hollywood" for the motion picture industry alone since the Wikipedia main article for Hollywood states that it has become shorthand reference for the industry as a whole. Jonel469 (talk) 19:20, 31 May 2017 (UTC)

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