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The Xtra Diary: Soho gets new plaque to a man of true vision

The new plaque at Bar Soho

The new plaque at Bar Soho, with Nino Polledri, left, and Iain Logie Baird. Right: John Logie Baird in 1917. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The new plaque at Bar Soho

Published: 27 January, 2017

A NEW plaque was unveiled at Bar Italia in Soho to the man who first publicly demonstrated television, upstairs at the venue in Frith Street.

Dozens of people gathered outside the restaurant on Thursday as the grandson of inventor John Logie Baird (1888-1946) revealed the new tribute to his grandfather. 

Iain Logie Baird told Diary: “He based his laboratories here. He initially made the discovery on October 2 1925, which was when he first saw on the screen Stookie Bill, a ventriloquist’s dummy. That was the first thing to be seen on a TV. The goal was to get a reflected light image of a human face.”

“Once he realised it worked, he was a bit shocked and daunted by the implications. Television was regarded as a wild science-fiction idea in most people’s minds back then… it seemed like magic to many people back then. 

“On January 26 1926 he invited around 40 scientists. The rooms here were quite small so they went in groups of six and they all had the chance to appear on a tv in another room. They all saw each other on TV and they saw Stookie Bill.”

It is not the first plaque to the inventor in Frith Street. Now retired Nino Polledri, whose sons now run Bar Italia, recalled when the first Blue Plaque to Logie Baird was unveiled, when he was just a teenager in the early 1950s. 

“I was only 14 or 15 at that stage, my father Luigi was here. 

“He had taken over the place a few years before in 1949. It was just the BBC back then. We felt that it was very appropriate for a plaque to be put up, as it was in the flat upstairs where he demonstrated TV for first time.”  

The new plaque was commissioned by the IEEE innovation and technology group. They are also holding an event exploring his work today at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in Albemarle Street, Mayfair, called The Evolution of Television from Baird to the Digital Age. 

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