Emmy award for Kirkintilloch television pioneer Alexander Bain

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A 19th Century inventor from Kirkintilloch has been awarded an Emmy by the US television industry – almost 140 years after his death.

Little known Scots inventor Alexander Bain is set to be posthumously honoured with a Technology and Engineering Emmy on Friday, January 8, at a special ceremony in Las Vegas.

East Dunbartonshire Council has been chosen as the custodian of the award. It is to be flown to Scotland, with plans for it to be put on public display locally.

The Emmys, a series of awards for television excellence, are the equivalent of the film industry Oscars.

Bain’s pioneering work in image transmission was later utilised by the developers of television.

Born in 1810, Bain died in poverty in Kirkintilloch in 1877 and is buried in the Old Aisle Cemetery in the town..

He was the first person to patent an electric clock and also installed the railway telegraph lines between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

But it is as the inventor of one of the earliest fax machines, patented in 1843, which has led him to be given the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Emmy award, alongside contemporary television giants such as Netflix and HBO.

This early form of image transmission combined elements of electric clocks and telegraphs but the breakthrough was the concept of scanning an image and then transmitting it so it could be reproduced elsewhere.

It was the first time that an image was ever transmitted from one location to another and introduced the concepts of scan lines, pixels and frame and line synchronisation used in all modern television systems.

Bain’s accomplishments will be recognised at the 67th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards in the Bellagio Hotel.

East Dunbartonshire Council maintain Bain’s gravestone and Council Leader Rhondda Geekie said: “It is a huge honour to be asked to accept the Technical and Engineering Emmy Award.

“Without the accomplishments of Alexander Bain we wouldn’t have television world-wide.

“Our predecessors in the Town Council of the Burgh of Kirkintilloch, where Bain died and was buried in 1877, publicly noted the importance of the inventions of Bain and pledged in 1959 that this headstone be maintained in perpetuity.

“They added an inscription to the headstone, which seems very fitting when honouring him. It says, ‘He thought above himself and also helped to secure a great and better world’.

“Bain may have had to wait over 170 years since his achievements to be honoured but the Emmy will be a source of great pride for the people of East Dunbartonshire, and Scotland as a whole.

“The council will ensure it goes on public display in the hope that this prestigious award will help bring the innovative work of Bain to the attention of a new generation of budding young engineers and help inspire them to ‘secure a great and better world’.”

Kirkintilloch and District Society of Antiquaries played a key role in ensuring the Emmy was awarded to Bain. President Ivan Ruddock wrote an article in 2012 exploring the link between Bain and the fundamentals of television.

Dr Ruddock added, “Alexander Bain invented the electric clock and made important contributions to electric telegraphy, but it is for his invention of facsimile transmission in 1843 that he deserves to be remembered and honoured by the award of an Emmy.

“It involved the concepts of image scanning, transmission and reconstruction, which are the basis of television, and all modern forms of image recording, storage and distribution, and he was the first person to take this inventive step.

“The people of Kirkintilloch are justly proud of its connection with Alexander Bain and the Emmy will be a tangible representation of his importance for years to come.”