Electricity History: Edison and the Light Bulb

Lynne Kiesling

Tuesday was the 129th anniversary of Edison’s invention of the incandescent light bulb, and Wired commemorated it with this very nice article. It tells the narrative well, from Humphrey Davy to arc lighting, with Edison using his telegraph profits to fund his research, to spending 14 months developing a light bulb that lasted for 3.5 hours.

One thought on “Electricity History: Edison and the Light Bulb

  1. Not that it’s important, but the article says that the bulb lasted 13.5 hours.

    What is more interesting and relevant but not in the article is that there were other inventors racing to do the same thing as Edison. In England, Joseph Swan developed a working carbon-filament bulb in 1860, secured a patent on an improved bulb design in 1878, a year before Edison’s patent. In 1881 he started the Swan Electric Light Company and started commercial production. In 1883 Edison and Swan formed a company called Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company, Limited. The company marketed bulbs under the name Ediswan. The story recounted here…


    …claims that Edison began with the Swan patented design, with intent to improve on it. There are no citations for those claims, however.

    In this country we tend to forget everybody but Edison, but if you put him back in the context of his time, he isn’t quite as heroic as we might otherwise think.

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