bulb - Invention - History
Contrary to popular belief,
Edison didn't "invent"
the light bulb, but rather he improved upon a 50-year-old
an English chemist, invented the first electric light. Davy
connected two wires to a battery and attached a charcoal strip
between the other ends of the wires. The charged carbon glowed
making the first arc lamp.
1820 - Warren De la
Rue enclosed a platinum coil in an evacuated tube and passed
an electric current through it. His lamp design was worked but
the cost of the precious metal platinum made this an
impossible invention for wide-spread use.
James Bowman Lindsay demonstrated
constant electric lighting system using a prototype light
1850 - Edward Shepard
invented an electrical incandescent arc lamp using a charcoal
filament. Joseph Wilson Swan started working with carbonized
paper filaments the same year.
1854 - Henricg
Globel, a German watchmaker, invented the first true light
bulb. He used a carbonized bamboo filament placed inside a
1875 - Herman
Sprengel invented the mercury vacuum pump making it possible
to develop a practical electric light bulb. Making a really
good vacuum inside the bulb possible.
1875 - Henry Woodward
and Matthew Evans patented a light bulb.
1878 - Sir Joseph
Wilson Swan (1828-1914), an English physicist, was the first
person to invent a practical and longer-lasting electric light
bulb (13.5 hours). Swan used a carbon fiber filament derived
1879 - Thomas Alva
Edison invented a carbon filament that burned for forty hours.
Edison placed his filament in an oxygen less bulb. (Edison
evolved his designs for the light bulb based on the 1875
patent he purchased from inventors, Henry Woodward and Matthew
1880 - Edison
continued to improved his light bulb until it could last for
over 1200 hours using a bamboo-derived filament.
1894 - Nikola Tesla patents another incandescent
lamp. He then produces Neon type and invents HID prototypes.
Metal Halide and High pressure sodium.
1903 - Willis Whitnew
invented a filament that would not make the inside of a light
bulb turn dark. It was a metal-coated carbon filament (a
predecessor to the tungsten filament).
1906 - The General
Electric Company were the first to patent a method of making
tungsten filaments for use in incandescent light bulbs. The
filaments were costly.
1910 - William David
Coolidge (1873-1975) invented an improved method of making
tungsten filaments. The tungsten filament outlasted all other
types of filaments and Coolidge made the costs practical.
1925 - The first
frosted light bulbs were produced.
1987 - James Highgate -
Hiett Designs Las Vegas - Auto Neon was developed - Undercar
1991 - Philips invented
a light bulb that lasts 60,000 hours. The bulb uses magnetic
2010 - LED
lighting - Next Chapter in Lighting History.
In 1879, using lower current
electricity, a small carbonized filament, and an improved
vacuum inside the globe, he was able to produce a reliable,
long-lasting source of light. The idea of electric lighting was
not new, and a number of people had worked on, and even
developed forms of electric lighting. But up to that time,
nothing had been developed that was remotely practical for
home use. Edison's eventual achievement was
inventing not just an incandescent electric light, but also an
electric lighting system that contained all the elements
necessary to make the incandescent light practical, safe, and
economical. After one and a half years of work, success was
achieved when an incandescent lamp with a filament of
carbonized sewing thread burned for thirteen and a half
Electrical Pioneers of America Their Own Words: Bell, De
Forest, Edison, Franklin, Henry, Steinmetz, Tesla, Thomson,
There are a couple of other
interesting things about the invention of the light bulb:
While most of the attention was on the discovery of the right
kind of filament that would work, Edison actually had to
invent a total of seven system elements that were critical to
the practical application of electric lights as an alternative
to the gas lights that were prevalent in that day.
These were the development
- the parallel circuit,
- a durable light bulb,
- an improved dynamo,
- the underground conductor
- the devices for
maintaining constant voltage,
- safety fuses and
insulating materials, and
- light sockets with on-off
Before Edison could make his
millions, every one of these elements had to be invented and
then, through careful trial and error, developed into
practical, reproducible components. The first public
demonstration of the Thomas Edison's incandescent lighting
system was in December 1879, when the Menlo Park laboratory
complex was electrically lighted. Edison spent the next
several years creating the electric industry.
Access to 500,000 Lights and Home Furnishings
modern electric utility industry began in the 1880s. It
evolved from gas and electric carbon-arc commercial and street
lighting systems. On
September 4, 1882, the first commercial power station, located
on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, went into operation
providing light and electricity power to customers in a one
square mile area; the electric age had begun. Thomas Edison's
Pearl Street electricity generating station introduced four
key elements of a modern electric utility system. It featured
reliable central generation, efficient distribution, a
successful end use (in 1882, the light bulb), and a
competitive price. A model of efficiency for its time, Pearl
Street used one-third the fuel of its predecessors, burning
about 10 pounds of coal per kilowatt hour, a "heat rate"
equivalent of about 138,000 Btu per kilowatt hour. Initially
the Pearl Street utility served 59 customers for about 24
cents per kilowatt hour.
In the late 1880s, power demand for electric motors brought
the industry from mainly nighttime lighting to 24-hour service
and dramatically raised electricity demand for transportation
and industry needs. By the end of the 1880s, small central
stations dotted many U.S. cities; each was limited to a few
blocks area because of transmission inefficiencies of direct
The success of his electric
light brought Thomas
Edison to new heights of fame and wealth, as electricity
spread around the world. His various electric companies
continued to grow until in 1889 they were brought together to
form Edison General Electric. Despite the use of Edison in the
company title however, he never controlled this company. The
tremendous amount of capital needed to develop the
incandescent lighting industry had necessitated the
involvement of investment bankers such as J.P. Morgan. When
Edison General Electric merged with its leading competitor
Thompson-Houston in 1892, Edison was dropped from the name,
and the company became simply General Electric.
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