A Visionary Inventor

The Telephane/Television

In 1870 frustrated that his friends in Ballarat could not see the Melbourne Cup,, Henry set about envisioning a system whereby they could see the finish of the race.

Henry Sutton’s idea grew and in 1885 his invention of the Telephane had evolved and by 1890 his paper on this invention was published and is recognised around the world as the first feasible television system.

The Telephane had it’s limitations as it had to use telephone or telegraph wires to transmit the images.

No doubt Henry Sutton was ahead of his time, it took another 63 inventors and 41 years before television became a reality and caught up to Henry’s vision.

History of the Television

Before the word television was invented transmitting pictures was called “Vision at a Distance”

Television started from transmitting photographs by telegraph this was accomplished in various forms over the years.

Born out of this was the facsimile machine commonly known as a fax which Henry also is given credit for as he invented his own facsimile system.

Technology evolved and in 1926 John Logie Baird used the same principles used in Henry’s telephane to invent television.


Henry Sutton worked in obscurity and in the remoteness of country Victoria to not only become the first person in the world to think up the concept of television but also come up with the world’s first feasible television system. London and Hastings in Sussex, England have both erected plaques honouring Baird and his work. Sadly though, over the last century, Australia has given no recognition to Henry Sutton and his contribution to science and innovation nor his contribution to the invention of television.


The year 1985 was the centenary of Henry’s feasible television system and just happened to coincide with the Japan Expo that was held in Tsukuba between 17 March and 16 September. The theme of the exposition was “Dwellings and Surroundings, Science and Technology for Man at Home.” The Japanese organisers thought that it was an appropriate time to look back over the history of technological progress and re-evaluate the contributions to science and technology that mankind should develop in the twenty first century. Henry’s Telephane was displayed in the Origins Hall in the Australian Pavilion, where reproductions of nineteenth century Australian patents and various past Australian inventions including Henry’s Telephane were displayed along the walls, providing an introduction to the Technology Gallery which housed exhibits that highlighted the latest developments in astronomy, medical, research, computers, solar energy and scientific instrumentation.