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Old Tuesday, June 19, 2007
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Question A Unique History of the Light Bulb

A Unique History of the Light Bulb

Most people assume that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. This is only partially true however. Historically speaking, many people helped developed the modern incandescent bulb. Though Thomas Edison's achievements were by far the most significant, there are several others that deserve some credit.

Important People In The Life Of A Light Bulb

Sir Humphrey Davy is the first person to create artificial light. While conducting experiments Davy passed an electric arc of energy between two poles. The resulting "light" had a short life but nonetheless contributed to the science of electricity.

In 1820 a fellow named Warren De la Rue also tried to create the incandescent light bulb. Using a platinum coil, la Rue passed a current of electricity through a tube. This successful resulted in a light "bulb" or sorts. However, the platinum coil used proved way too expensive to mass-produce. Thus la Rue's creation served more as a research tool than anything else.

Still searching for the perfect bulb, Frederick de Moleyns stepped up to the plate in 1841. He used powdered charcoal filters as a conductor for light energy. He is the first person granted a patent for creating incandescent lamps. Then, Edward Shepard less than a decade later used a charcoal filament to create an incandescent lamp. Like its predecessors, this light was short-lived. Around the same time a man named Joseph Swan also started using carbon as filaments. Carbon provided a lower cost and more efficient filament material than other metal alternatives.

In 1854 a German worker created a filament using carbonized bamboo. This successfully produced an incandescent electric bulb. The light bulb had the same problem as its predecessors however. Short life spans seemed to plague the early inventors of light for many years before Edison stepped on to the scene. In 1860 Joseph Swan displayed a decent light bulb using carbonized filaments. His problem however, was failure to create a proper vacuum and enough electricity to product a lasting light.

Thomas Edison Enters the Light Bulb Scene

Finally Thomas Edison, after thousands of experiments, in 1879 figures out that carbonized paper filament produces a lasting light bulb. Thomas Edison's bulb produced light for almost 15 hours. Thus, he is credited with producing the first effective and useful incandescent bulb.

Thomas Edison tried more than 6,000 different plant species before he discovered the one that would work as a proper filament. A few years later a gentleman named Lewis Latimer patented a process that allowed carbon filaments to be manufactured more efficiently. His process extended the life of Edison's carbon filaments, producing an even longer lasting light bulb.

Thomas Edison of course never stopped working on the light bulb. After creating the first incandescent light bulb to last, he worked on creating the first useful incandescent lamp. Thankfully many other researchers continued to refine Edison's work. Because of this, there are many different varieties of bulb available today.

Let's take a peak at some of the inventions that followed the first incandescent bulb.

New Discoveries in Incandescence

The journey of the light bulb did not stop with Edison. In the early 1900s researchers discovered that tungsten filaments were more efficient for producing long lasting light that carbon ones. Now tungsten is the standard for light bulb filaments, even in modern times.

Today the light bulb has evolved into a work of art. There are many different categories of light bulb today, aside from the traditional incandescent. Some of the more popular varieties include:


Full spectrum light bulbs
Automotive LED bulbs
Compact fluorescent light bulbs
Halogen light bulbs
Projector light bulbs
Tanning bed bulbs
Specialty light bulbs

As you can see, the light bulb has come a long way. Thanks to the hard efforts of many scientists, the light bulb has evolved into a complex creation!
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