Chicago - Eugene J. Polley, who invented the first wireless remote control for television while working for Zenith, died yesterday at 96.
Polley died of natural causes in Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, Downers Grove, Ill.
He started his career with Zenith Radio Corporation (now Zenith Electronics, a subsidiary of LG Electronics) in 1935. His 47-year engineering career spanned the pioneering days of radio, black-and-white television and color TV.
His inventions, primarily in the field of television, earned 18 U.S. patents. Polley's best-known invention, the Flash-Matic remote control, was the world's first wireless TV remote, introduced in 1955. It used a flashlight-like device to activate photo cells on the television set to change channels.
Polley worked his way up from the stockroom to the parts department, where he produced Zenith's first catalog, and then on to his long career in the engineering department.
During World War II, as part of Zenith's commitment to the war effort, Polley worked on radar advances for the U.S. Department of Defense. He also worked on the push-button radio for automobiles and on the development of the video disk, predecessor of today's DVD.
Over the years, Polley held key technology positions at Zenith, including product engineer, mechanical engineer, head of the video recording group, head of the advanced mechanical design group and was assistant division chief for the mechanical engineering group.
Polley was the 2009 recipient of the Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award from the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers. Polley and fellow Zenith engineer Robert Adler were honored in 1997 with an Emmy Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for Pioneering Development of Wireless Remote Controls for Consumer Television.
Polley was born in Chicago on Nov. 29, 1915. He attended the City Colleges of Chicago and Armour Institute. He was a longtime resident of Lombard, Ill., where he was active in village government, serving as a member of the village's Zoning Board of Appeals for 34 years.
He is survived by his son, Eugene J. Polley Jr., and grandson, Aaron, of San Diego. He was preceded in death by his wife, Blanche, and daughter, Joan Polley.
Visitation will be held May 22, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Brust Funeral Home, Lombard, Ill. A funeral mass will be held May 23 at 10 a.m., Sacred Heart Church, Lombard, followed by internment at Assumption Cemetery in Wheaton, Ill.