Who Actually Invented The Light Bulb?
The light bulb is one of the most important inventions in human history, with such a strong effect on the ambience of a room that vintage lamps can create a powerful stylistic effect.
That we have reached the point that such a functional invention can make or break a room is to the credit of the hundreds of electrical engineers, scientists and inventors who each contributed to its invention, developments and revolutions.
However, whilst inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Edison is widely credited for inventing the light bulb, to the point that a 13-foot tall light bulb glows in his honour in Edison, New Jersey, he did not invent the light bulb, and its history spans eight decades before he was born.
The first known step in the development of the electric light bulb came in 1761, with a demonstration of incandescence by Ebenezer Kinnersley.
He found that if you run an electrical circuit through a metal wire, it makes the wire so hot it glows, which he theorised at that point could potentially be used for light, but required a huge amount of electricity and a metal filament that could conduct electricity effectively yet had a high enough melting point to survive the resistance.
For the first half of the 19th century, platinum was used as the filament wire, simply because it was the metal that could survive the process for just long enough to demonstrate the principle.
The first actual experiment that showcased this in action was Humphrey Davy’s system in 1802, but James Bowman Lindsay, Warren de la Rue, Frederick de Moleyns and Moses G Farmer would also use platinum.
Others such as Marcellin Jobard and John W. Starr experimented with much cheaper carbon filaments, and the former took advantage of the principle of vacuum atmospheres to increase the longevity of the filament.
In the end, British inventor Joseph Swan along with Thomas Edison often share credit for creating the first commercially viable light bulbs, and the pair would eventually merge their companies to form Ediswan, whilst other innovations such as tungsten filaments would help light bulbs last longer.