History

Who invented the light bulb

By Nancy Livingstone
Info Guru, Catalogs.com

Rate This Article:

1939
3.3 / 5.0
light bulb in orange background
Historians estimate that over twenty inventors worked toward the creation and design of the light bulb
  • Share
  • Tweet

Let there be light

Today the light bulb is one of the most common illuminating devices around but this simple luxury was designed less than 200 years ago. Similar to any other great invention, like the invention of the internet, many scientists contributed to the invention of the light bulb, including the famous Thomas Edison. A glimpse into the 1800s provides details on just how the light bulb became what it is today.

Converting Electricity to Light Before the light bulb was invented, people had to rely on candles and torches during the evening hours. Oil lamps were also used, however they left a messy residue of soot on anything close to them.

Starting in the early 1800s, inventors looked for ways to convert electricity into light. Sir Humphry Davy, an English physician, successfully passed an electric current through platinum strips in 1801. Unfortunately, the strips evaporated quickly and Davy was unable to create a light that lasted more than a few minutes.

In 1809 Davy created what would become known as the Arc lamp. He made an electrical connection between two charcoal rods connected to a battery. The light from this was very bright but small.

For the next 50 years, others sought ways to lengthen the amount of time the light source would remain. In 1840 Warren de la Rue, a British scientist, placed a platinum coil in a vaccum tube. When he passed an electric current through it, light was formed. This design was efficient and the light lasted longer, but platinum was very expensive which made it impossible to be distributed on a commercial level.

In 1841 Frederick de Moleyns of England was given the first patent for an incandescent lamp. His design used powdered charcoal. He heated this material between two platinum wires in a vacuum bulb.

Joseph Wilson Swan Joseph Wilson Swan was born in 1828 in England. He worked as a physicist and chemist. Swan wanted to produce a practical, long-lasting light source. He used a carbon paper filament in his light bulbs. In 1878 he received a British patent for his light bulb. Swan began placing light bulbs in homes throughout England. By the early 1880s he had started his own light bulb company.

Thomas Edison While Swan worked in England, Thomas Edison was busy in the United States. He experimented with thousands of different filaments. His goal was to find materials that would light well and last for a long time. He brought in various metals and supplies from all over the world.

Then in October of 1879, Edison had a breakthrough. He carbonized a piece of sewing thread. Using this as a filament, he was able to produce a light bulb that burned for thirteen and a half hours. By bending the filament, he could make the lamp burn for over 100 hours. Eventually Edison invented a bulb that could glow for more than 1200 hours. He received a patent in 1880 for his light bulb. It had the same features of today's modern light bulbs: an incandescent filament in a glass bulb with a screw base.

The Real Inventor of the Light Bulb When the question is asked, who invented the light bulb, Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison are usually given credit. However, both of these men worked off of previous inventions. Historians estimate that over twenty inventors worked toward the creation and design of the light bulb. Of these, Edison's version was the most efficient.

When studying who invented the light bulb, it is appropriate to credit numerous inventors that lived during the 1800s. Even after Swan and Edison, others continued to improve the light source. The light bulb, as we know it today, is a result of much time and effort. Remember that the next time you flip on the switch!

Rate this Article

Click on the stars below to rate this article from 1 to 5

  • Share
  • Tweet