Leslie Earl Flory was born on a farm in Kansas
in 1907 and graduated from Kansas University with a BSEE in 1930. As a
teenager, he built a simple radio, installed a power line 1/4 mile from town to
his parent's house, and a lot of other projects. On graduation he received
offers from RCA, GE, Westinghouse, and AT&T. RCA offered the best salary at $30
per week, and for only a five-day work week when some of the others wanted six,
so he went to RCA in Camden, NJ.
RCA had a student engineering program where the new engineers would rotate
through several labs before getting a permanent assignment. After a few
others, Les landed in Vladimir Zworykin's lab, working on television. They
mutually decided that they had found a good match, and Les worked closely with
Zworykin for the rest of their careers. If Zworykin was the Father of
Television, Ballard, Banca, Branson, Essig, Flory, Iams, Ogloblinsky, and Vance
were the Uncles. Even that list is too short and Zworykin always asked people
not to call him the "Father of Television", although he arguably did more than
any other individual to turn the concept into reality. When asked about Philo
Farnsworth's work, Les said, "His Image Dissector made beautiful pictures if you
gave it enough light, especially for televising movies." That was typical of
Les and his colleagues, they had respect for the contributions of others, and
were not so egotistical as to believe that television could not have been
invented without them.
Mr. Leslie Flory - (c. 1944) with his home-made TV, built into a Victrola
In addition to television, Les worked on night vision, digital computing
(pre-WWII), reading aids for the blind, medical electronics, airborne astronomy,
and electronic vehicle control. With his son, Robert Earl Flory, he formed the
first father-son team to win Research Awards at RCA Labs. Robert E. had a
distinguished career at RCA as well, largely
working in television.
Les and his wife Helen also had a daughter, June. Les and Helen had many
hobbies, including repairing and collecting clocks, watches, jewelry, and music
boxes. Between Helen's artistic touch and Les's ability to make the most
delicate mechanisms work they did many great projects and so did their kids.
They also loved gardening and especially orchids.
When Les died in 2002 at 95, he left behind his son Robert , Robert's son and
daughter, June's three daughters , and two great-grandsons, one of whom was born
after Les's death.
I lived in awe of my grandfather Les Flory right to the end. He maintained a
sharp wit and positive attitude, joking with the hospital staff when he went in
for the last time with double pneumonia. He learned how to run a Windows PC at
92 so he could look at pictures of his great-grandson, survived a major surgery
at 93, and kept his house until he was 95. I am really lucky to have known him.
Robert G. Flory
Editor's note: Mr. Flory's grandson, Robert G. Flory, was generous in providing a
photograph of a 1932 iconoscope (fully electronic television-camera tube) which was hand-built by his grandfather.
This original iconoscope remains with the family. Robert is working with Alex Magoun at the Sarnoff Library and much more material
and information will be posted on that site.