Herbert E. Ives Biography – Color Fax Inventor

Herbert Ives (b. 21 July 1882, d. 13 November 1953) was responsible for heading the development of facsimile and television systems with AT&T in the 1st half of the 20th Century.

Outside of the world of facsimile, he was one of the leading critics of the special theory of relativity and is known for introducing the Ives-Stilwell experiment, which is today known for being the direct confirmation of special relativity‘s time dilation factor (although he interpreted the results as a rejection of special relativity).

Herbert E Ives Fax Inventor

Table of Contents


Born in Philadelphia, he was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University.

He was also known for having a focus on aerial photography and coin collecting. In his lifetime, he was president of the American Numismatic Society and the Optical Society of America.

Ives became an expert in color photography, likely with interest he obtained from his father’s experience with it as well.

Color Facsimile

In 1924, Ives transmitted the first color facsimile, through the use of color separations.

Other Inventions and Initiatives

In 1927, he was able to transmit 185 line television over a long distance, showing live video images of Herbert Hoover through AT&T’s station in Whippany, New Jersey.

By 1930 a two-way television system he had developed was in regular use, with Bell Labs‘ New York Research Facility spending years of development and research on it. The intention was to develop videotelephony and television for telecommunications and broadcast purposes.

Over Ives‘ tenure, total investment in video telephones was over $500 million, eventually developing the Picturephone.

Special Relativity and the Ives-Stilwell experiment

Ives is most famous for his participation in the Ives-Stilwell experiment, which helped prove the time dilation effect of special relativity.

While the result of the experiment helped prove the effect of special relativity, Ives‘ interpretation of the results was in his mind a direct refutation of the idea of special relativity.

Further Resources on Herbert E. Ives:

New York Times Archive – First Practical Demonstration of Television
BairdTelevision.com biography of Herbert E. Ives
Brittanica Entry for Videophone
Frederic Ives Medal / Quinn Prize (endowed by Herbert E. Ives)
Dean Turner and Richard Hazelett – The Einstein Myth and the Ives Papers
Smithsonian – Papers of Frederic Eugene Ives and Herbert Eugene Ives
Optical Society Entry on Herbert Ives

More on the History of Fax:

  • The History of Fax – From Alexander Bain’s 1843 invention to today’s internet based fax systems (and everything in between)
  • Alexander Bain – Developed an Experimental Fax Machine between 1843 and 1846
  • Arthur Korn – Developed Fax Machine for Transmitting Photographs
  • Edouard Belin – Inventor of the Bélinographe
  • Frederick Bakewell – Improved Bain’s Facsimile Machine
  • Giovanni Caselli – Inventor of the Pantelegraph. Sent images 800km across telegraph wires 9 years before Alexander Graham Bell’s Telephone Patent
  • Herbert E. Ives – Sent first color fax
  • Richard H. Ranger – Invented first Transatlantic Radio Fax
  • Rudolf Hell – Invented the Hellschreiber
  • Shelford Bidwell – Research in the field of “Telephotography”
  • Pantelegraph – An early fax invention used to transmit images over telegraph lines
  • Fultograph – An early fax invention used to transmit images over radio waves”
  • Telautograph – An early fax invention used to transmit signatures over long distances
  • 3D Fax – A 1990s technique used to send computer code over a fax machine. Each page could hold about 50kb of information
  • Radiofax – Still used today, a method for transmitting images over long distances through radio. Also known as HF Fax or Weatherfax