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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95 Comments

  1. Rasheed says:

    Thomson edison invented the bulb

  2. 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

  3. 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!

  4. B. K. says:

    As usual the historical truth concerning the light bulb and Edison is incomplete. Lewis H. Latimer was an African American draftsman and inventor who worked for Maxim,Edison’s rival. However no one mentions his patents for the light bulb or the 1st viable light bulbs and improvements to an industry he helped create. Keep in mind the racism of the day & the eugenics movement. Both of which most likely help conceal the historical truth. Hope you are a bit more enlightened.

  5. B. K. says:

    He later worked for and with Edison and was charged with drafting and setting up early power stations in NY, Canada and Europe. Check U.S. patent office for his other notable inventions ad improvements. Toilets on trains, he also drafted the telephone for Alexander Graham Bell. One to grow on…inductee i. The inventors Hall of Fame…

  6. crystal says:

    but where did he invent the light buld

  7. dicle says:

    What difficulties did thomas aďdison have when he invented the light bulb can someone answer

  8. kaylee says:

    what interesting facts did he think of the light bulb i am doing this for a school project and i cant find a web site so can you please put what he thought of the light bulb in the essa thing please please please would you do it,because if i dont find a site i will get an “F” on my paper so please put what he thought abput the light bulb in there please

  9. taylor king says:

    yea right there is more information on the light bulb then this unless they put more informaton i’ll never use the website ever again

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  11. Eli says:

    I need information of what materials he first used for the filaments because this is after he suceeded

    And it didn’t give much info. And this is for a school project Very disappointing guys!

  12. shanee says:

    This does not give the information i need about contributions Thomas Edison making industrialization with with his light bulb.

  13. Jo says:

    can u plz include more info abt how Thomas Edison made the light bulb.

  14. please add more information on thomas edison

  15. Ed says:

    Edison did NOT invent the light bulb. Period. It is a well known fact to historians that several dozen inventors were using inferior light bulbs trying to make them commercially viable. They were easy to break and also gave off a dim light. One of these inventors Carl Munck a German immigrant had used several filaments and one was a carbonized bamboo. Edison didn’t really “steal” this idea but rather “borrowed” it from a worker. With this Edison made the first bulb that would last a few weeks and not burn or break. Tesla also had ideas “removed” from him when he worked for Edison. Tesla was far more a pioneer than Thomas Edison.

  16. brooke says:

    I’m glad Thomas invented the light its a great use

  17. brooke says:

    Thomas is a good inventer!

  18. thalia says:

    i agree and i have to do a report about thomas edition and there is so much to learn!!!!!!!!

  19. AndrewB says:

    South Foreland lighthouse at Dover, England, had been using a carbon arc electric light bulb since 1859, twenty years before Edison ‘invented’ it!

  20. Talia Mingo says:

    I am doing a report on Thomas Edison and other people might have came up with the idea but Thomas was the one that made it happen!!!

  21. noneyobezzwax says:

    i need to site this article, so how do i do so

  22. Watlon Kelly says:

    It’s a very informative topic. The history behind the discovery of bulb was unknown. Now have came to know about it. So, thank you for this article.

  23. libby says:

    Is there any other facts that anyone might know about Thomas Edison as I need them for a project for school.
    libby´s last blog post ..Intel Edison Awards

  24. Tanya says:

    What is the difference between Thomas Edison’s light bulb and modern light bulbs

  25. I hope people. One on this website it’s very good info ✌

  26. NIKI says:

    We need more information regarding the invention of electric bulbs.

  27. Sam says:

    Can you tell us more about how and who invented the lightbulb and there go deeper with how he changed it.
    Sam´s last blog post ..Join Our 3D Printing Contest [Oct. 1 thru Nov. 15]

  28. HotDog says:

    tell about where he design the patented light bulb.

  29. HotDog says:

    tell about where he design the patented light bulb.

  30. ella says:

    Can you please state how he did it and what EXACTLY is in there

  31. Davis says:

    Can you tell exactly when it was made and when he started.
    Davis´s last blog post ..Thomas Edison – Solar Powered Windows

  32. mark says:

    did he have a team and if so who was on it
    mark´s last blog post ..Thomas Edison – Solar Powered Windows

  33. Samantha says:

    The first electric light globe and how light globes changed since their invention??

  34. Hatran says:

    How does this invention of Edison help the man and the world nowadays?

  35. Maggie Wood says:

    When I visited the Edison winter home in Ft. Myers, FL in 1975 the bamboo filament light bulbs he installed there in what I think was the turn of the century were still burning. He took out a new patent every time he updated to a new and better filament material. Edison held over 1,000 patents.

  36. Cracra656 says:

    I need more info on how he came up with the idea on the electric lightbulb

  37. Morgan says:

    This was very helpful for my project

  38. Papu_Franku says:

    Can I please have the name of the author who wrote this? I need it to cite this page. Just amazing.

  39. Papu_Franku says:

    May I please have the name of the author? I need it to cite it.

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