Who Invented the Light Bulb? A History Lesson

Over 140 years ago the light bulb was invented, it has brought light into our homes and businesses. Many argue it is one of the most important inventions of all time! There are 22 different inventors that history credits with creating the incandescent light bulb.

We are going to give you a comprehensive and exciting history lesson on the history of the light bulb.

The light bulb revolutionised society. Before the light bulb, people relied on candlelight and fire to light up the room, which was not very efficient or effective. The light bulb increased the working day and improved working conditions which have allowed the economy to grow and businesses to thrive.

When discussing some of the greatest inventions of the 19th century, one name pops up again and again - Thomas Edison. It is widely believed that he invented the electric light bulb in 1879. Before its official invention, scientists and inventors had been experimenting with the idea of the light bulb for decades before.

There is some scientific and historical debate about who is responsible for inventing the light bulb. Whilst it is widely believed that Edison invented the light bulb, some put it down to British inventor Humphry Davy.

Humphry Davy was a British chemist who created a basic electric light. He created what was known as the Electric Arc Lamp, but it could not be used in homes due to how quickly it burned out. Many inventors worked on this circuit like Warren de la Rue and Joseph Wilson Swan, and ultimately Edison finalised it as the light bulb.

In 1874, Edison purchased a patent from Henry Woodward who was a Canadian medical electrician. Edison officially started his research for the light bulb in 1878, he focused on upgrading the filament. The same year he placed a patent for ‘Improvement In Electric Lights’. He continued to work on his design to try and improve it by experimenting with materials.

In 1879, Edison filed another patent for his electric light. By 1880, he had refined his design to the point it could be used in households as it could be lit for up to 1200 hours due to the bamboo filament. All of the first light bulbs were ‘incandescent’ bulbs. He opened his first factory under the name ‘Edison Electric Light Company’, and they began to manufacture and market the new product.

As time passed and the light bulb was becoming more widely used, other scientists began to work on the design to improve it further. In 1904, European inventors discovered that tungsten filament bulbs had a longer lifespan. In 1910, William David Coolidge managed to make the light bulb making the process simpler as he created the longest lasting tungsten filament.

Then the 1920s came. The decade of automobiles being more widely used. The frosted light bulb that was adjustable was invented with cars in mind. This improved road safety and made people’s lives easier. The light bulb was finding new purposes every year. In the 1930s as photography became more popular, one-time flashbulbs to improve the lighting on photos were introduced.

The next major development of the light bulb was in 1955 when Elmer Fridrich and Emmet Wiley created the first halogen lamp. The halogen lamp was more energy efficient than the traditional incandescent, and halogen light bulbs have been the market leader until the last few years where LED lights have stormed the market.

LED which stands for light-emitting diode is a modern light that is being used more and more every day. In 1962, American scientist Nick Holonyak was responsible for inventing the first visible-spectrum LED in the colour red; he did this whilst attempting to make a laser. In 1995, the first white LED bulb went on the market.

LED lights were not met with open arms. Many people were disappointed by the bulb as it took a while to reach maximum brightness and it was not as bright as traditional bulbs, but over time this has been amended and now LEDs are as bright as halogen bulbs and reach maximum brightness immediately.

Incandescent are not energy efficient or environmentally friendly. We now have LED lights which are significantly more advanced than incandescent bulbs. LED lights use around 90% less electricity and have a lifespan more than 40 times longer than incandescent.

Governments all around the world are in the process of banning incandescent bulbs in an attempt to slow down climate change.

It is interesting to look at the LED revolution. In 2010 only 10% of lamps used LED lights, whereas today LED lights account for approximately 70% of all lights. In just over 10 years they have become the market leader by a whopping majority.

LED lights are significantly reducing the amount of electricity that we use. It is suggested that 19% of electricity across the world is used for lighting. The US Department of Energy believes that by 2025 (due to LED lights) we will reduce our electricity consumption by 50%. This will reduce carbon emissions by 258 million metric tonnes. This will save the world billions of pounds and have huge benefits to the environment.

< Return to blog