Now Open: The Sarnoff Collection Reopens!

View of the museum, with an electron microscope in the foreground, and artifacts and photos visible in the background.
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David Sarnoff Timeline

1891-1906: The Child is Father to the Man

February 27, 1891: Born to Leah and Abraham Sarnoff in Uzlian, Russia (a shtetl or village southeast of Minsk, now in Belarus; search for Uzlian here.)

1896: Abraham Sarnoff leaves for New York City.

1896-1900: Studies with his granduncle, a rabbi, in a kheder, memorizing lines of the Talmud.

July 2, 1900: Arrived New York City with his mother and two brothers via Minsk, the ports of Liepaja, Latvia; Liverpool, England; and Montreal, Canada; and New York’s Barge Office.

1900-07: Helps support family by selling penny newspapers before and after school, and singing in his synagogue choir.

June 1906: Graduates from eighth grade at the Educational Allianceon New York’s Lower East Side.

June 1906: Begins working for the Commercial Cable Telegraph Company.

September 30, 1906: Begins work as office boy for Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America.

1907-1919:Horatio Alger Comes to Life

1907: Promoted to junior wireless telegraph operator.

1908-09: Signs on as assistant telegraph operator at Marconi station at Siasconset, Nantucket Island, off Massachusetts; promoted to full operator.

1909-10: Appointed night manager of Marconi station at Sea Gate, Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York.

1910: Transfers to management of Marconi station in Wanamaker’s Department Store, New York City

1911: Father dies; takes leave to sign on as wireless operator on S.S. Beothic out of St. John’s, Newfoundland, for seal hunting expedition; also serves on S.S. Harvard.

1912: Promoted to Marconi radio station inspector and instructor at Marconi Institute for new operators.

1913: Promoted to chief radio inspector and assistant chief engineer; helps establish first radio communications with railroad trains on the Erie Lackawanna line between Binghamton, New York, and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

1914: Permits Edwin Armstrong to demonstrate continuous wave regeneration technology at Marconi station at Belmar, New Jersey and receives reprimand from senior Marconi officials in England. Promoted to contract manager.

1915: Promoted to assistant traffic manager; makes first proposal regarding broadcast radio.

1915-18: Secretary of Institute of Radio Engineers (one of the IEEE’s founding organizations).

1917: Promoted to commercial manager.

July 4, 1917: Marries Lizette Hermant.

July 2, 1918: Becomes father of Robert W. Sarnoff.

1919-1929: Luck Favors the Prepared Mind

1919: General Electric Company (GE) buys American arm of Marconi company and incorporates its assets as Radio Corporation of America (RCA). David Sarnoff retains post as commercial manager.

January 1920: Sends memo to GE superiors on present and prospective business for RCA, including broadcasting.

April 29, 1921: Promoted to general manager of RCA.

January 8, 1921: Becomes father of Edward Sarnoff.

1922: Promoted to vice president and general manager.

December 11, 1924: Appointed lieutenant colonel, United States Army reserve.

February 23, 1927: Becomes father of Thomas W. Sarnoff.

January 1, 1929: Promoted to executive vice president.

1930-1941: Hard Times

January 3, 1930: Promoted to president, RCA.

December 23, 1931: Appointed colonel, U. S. Army reserve.

April 20, 1939: Introduces RCA’s electronic monochrome television system in broadcast from the New York World’s Fair in Queens, New York.

1941-1945: The Making of the General

1942: Called to active duty in June-July and August-October with the Army Signal Corps.

March-December 1944: Called to active duty to develop and implement electronic news coverage systems for D-Day and the liberation of Paris.

December 7, 1944: Appointed brigadier general, U. S. Army.

1945-1956: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

January 1, 1949: Promoted to chairman of the board, RCA.

September 30, 1951: RCA Laboratories facility in Princeton, New Jersey, rededicated as David Sarnoff Research Center.

1957-1971: Imagining the Future

September 30, 1967: David Sarnoff Library dedicated in Princeton.

Summer 1968: Suffers attack of shingles and undergoes first of three mastoid operations to stop infection.

December 31, 1969: Appointed honorary chairman of the board of RCA.

December 12, 1971: Dies of cardiac arrest at home; buried at Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York