Peter Carl Goldmark was a German-Hungarian Jewish engineer who developed the first commercial colour-television system and the 33 1/3 revolutions-per-minute (rpm) long-playing (LP) phonograph record, which revolutionized the recording industry. Born in Budapest, Hungary, Goldmark became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1937, at age 31.
Goldmark joined the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Laboratories in 1936. There he began work on a colour-television system that was first demonstrated in 1940. Based on the use of a rotating, three-colour disk, his field-sequential system was improved after World War II and approved for commercial use by the Federal Communications Commission in 1950. Although soon replaced by all-electronic colour systems that were compatible with black-and-white transmission, his system has found wide application in closed-circuit television for industry, medical institutions, and schools because his colour camera is much smaller, lighter, and easier to maintain and operate than cameras used in commercial television.
In 1948 Goldmark and his team at CBS Laboratories introduced the LP record. Utilizing a groove width of only 0.003 inch (0.076 millimetre), as compared with 0.01 inch for the old 78-rpm records, the equivalent of six 78-rpm records could be compressed into one 33 1/3 LP.
After Goldmark became a vice president of CBS in 1950, he developed the scanning system that allowed the U.S. Lunar Orbiter spacecraft (launched in 1966) to relay photographs 238,000 miles (380,000 kilometres) from the Moon to the Earth.
Goldmark also developed an electronic video recording system, utilizing unperforated plastic film to record the picture in monochrome and to carry the colour information in coded form. In cartridges, the film could be played through any standard television receiver in either colour or black and white.
Approaching the mandatory company retirement age of 65, Goldmark left CBS Laboratories in 1971, and formed Goldmark Communications, where he pursued research on the use of communication technologies to provide services like teleconferencing and remote medical consultations to people in rural areas. Funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation in the early 1970s, the "New Rural Society Project" was housed at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., and conducted pilot studies across the state in Eastern Connecticut's relatively rural Windham region. In 1969 he was awarded the David Sarnoff Medal by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. In 1972, he was recognized for his leadership in the field of technology innovation by the Industrial Research Institute when presented with the illustrious IRI Medal.
On November 22, 1977, President Jimmy Carter presented Goldmark with the National Medal of Science "For contributions to the development of the communication sciences for education, entertainment, culture and human service."
Goldmark died in an automobile accident on December 7, 1977 in Westchester County, New York.