Thomas Edison Lightbulb

Let there be Light!Thomas Edison on Time Magazine

Historians agree that Thomas Edison was not the inventor of the electric light bulb, but he did produce the first commercially viable one. Earlier light bulbs were experimented with as far back as 1802; and there were 23 others who had invented light bulbs, some of whom were still working on them at the time of Edison’s work.

Three factors in combination are generally recognized as contributing to Edison’s success:

  1. A durable incandescent material
  2. Elimination of air from the bulb-a better vacuum
  3. A filament material of high resistance

This is an early sketch from Thomas Edison of his light bulb.


Thomas Edison’s serious incandescent light bulb research began in 1878, filing his first patent later that year…”Improvement In Electric Lights” in October 1878. His experiments involved the fabrication and testing of many different metal filaments, including platinum. Platinum was very difficult to work with, and prone to being weakened by heating and oxygen attack.


In addition, platinum was expensive, and too low in resistance; which would require heavy copper conductors in Edison’s electric distribution system he was designing to supply commercial installations of his bulbs. This system would later become the model for our modern electric utility power distribution system of today.

Edison then resorted to a carbon-based, high-resistance, filament. One year later in October 1879 Edison successfully tested a filament that burned for 13.5 hours. Continuing to improve his design, by November 1879, he filed for a U.S. patent for an electric lamp using “a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected … to platina contact wires”. The filament was made from a piece of carbonized thread.

From coneption to invention, this is one of Thomas Edison's early light bulbs.

By New Year’s he was demonstrating lamps using carbonized cardboard filaments to large crowds at the Menlo Park laboratory. It was not until several months after the patent was granted that Edison and his team discovered that a carbonized bamboo filament could last over 1200 hours. A year later, Edison began manufacturing commercial lamps using carbonized Japanese bamboo as filaments.

Throughout his career, Edison worked on many improvements to his signature invention, an invention that literally changed the way we live after dark. Prior to the light bulb, folks burned lamp oils or used manufactured natural gas for illumination, a rather dangerous way to provide illumination. Electric lights became cheap, safe, and convenient to use and the public and commercial concerns installed them in rapidly increasing numbers. The rest is history.

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62 Comments

  1. swagger says:

    can you put more information about how they built the light bulb and with with materials.

  2. Alex says:

    Can you put more information on how it was made

  3. Popo says:

    Mama me hice caca y huele bien

  4. Monique Cook says:

    Can u put more information on how it was made and that because this does not help me that much

  5. Josh says:

    Im doing this for a school porject .. I didt get enougfh info about how it s made and the matriles used

  6. tod says:

    this is awesome

  7. Rasheed says:

    Thomson edison invented the bulb

  8. Jimi says:

    Is it true that Edison made up to 1,000 attempts/efforts before he finally succeeded on Bulb invention? Please clarify this.
    Thanks

  9. Dylan Young says:

    I am a Mechanical Engineering student and this was more than enl8ghtening.. I had guessed he had success with tungsten. I had no idea it was carbonized bamboo that provided him with his success in the longevity of his buld. Good read!

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