The modern Edison bulbs are seen as a cool way to add some vintage style to your home, but did you know they revolutionized the industry? Given the resurgence in popularity, we decided to share the history of the Edison bulb and see why one of the most innovative products has stood the test of time.
An Early History of Illumination
At one time, our only source of illumination was fire and light provided from the sun and moon. Then, in 1790 England, gas lighting became popular. However, it proved to be unstable and dangerous, as many theatres and homes perished in fire. In 1809, electric arc lighting was invented, which, while safer than gas, was proven to be too bright for small areas. There had to be a better way…
1880 – enter Thomas Edison, and the first commercially sustainable incandescent light bulb, AKA, The Edison Bulb.
Original carbon-filament bulb from Thomas Edison.(bulbs.com)
Born in 1847, an inventor at heart , Thomas Edison took on jobs as a telegrapher and a newspaper carrier to supplement his passion. This allowed him to seek out ways to better do “things”. He credits his mother stating “My mother is the making of me. She understands me; she let me follow my bent” (Jack, 2017). At the time of his death in 1931 Edison held 1093 US patents and an additional 1139 worldwide.
Image Credit: albertjack.com
On July 24, 1874, a Canadian patent was filed by a medical electrician named Henry Woodward and a colleague Mathew Evans. In 1879, after unsuccessfully attempting to commercialize their bulb, they sold their patent to Edison (Wikipedia, 2017).
In 1879, Edison filed another U.S. patent for an electric lamp using a carbon filament or strip coiled. Although the patent described several ways of creating the carbon filament, 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. This discovery marked the beginning of commercially manufactured light bulbs and in 1880, Thomas Edison’s company, Edison Electric Light Company began marketing its new product.
History at a Glance
- 1906 – The General Electric Company were the first to patent a method of making tungsten filaments for use in incandescent light bulbs. Edison knew tungsten would prove to be the best choice for filaments, however, the machinery needed to produce the wire in such a fine form was not available at the time.
- 1910 – William David Coolidge of General Electric improved the process of making tungsten filaments.
- 1920s – The first frosted light bulb is produced.
- 1930s – The flash bulbs for photography were invented. The fluorescent tanning lamp was also invented.
- 1940s – The first ‘soft light’ incandescent bulbs were produced.
- 1950s – Quartz glass and halogen light bulb are produced.
- 1980s – New low wattage metal halides are created.
- 1990s – Long life bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs make their debut.
Image Credit: homedepot.com
The future of the Edison bulb was “dim”, as modern incandescent bulbs are not energy efficient. The Edison bulb converts less than 10% of electricity supplied into light – the rest is expelled as heat. However, these inefficient light bulbs are still sought after today and have been revolutionized with modern LED technology. Edison-style bulbs are created in a more efficient way to allow customers to have both a stylish and efficient bulb.
Image: Z-Lite fixture 8001-6C-BRZ
Jack, A. (2017, September 22). Thomas Edison Biography. Retrieved from https://albertjack.com/2017/09/22/thomas-edison-biography/
Nostalgicbulbs.com. (2017, May 13). Edison Bulbs History. Retrieved from https://www.nostalgicbulbs.com/blogs/vintage-bulbs/edison-bulbs-history
Wikipedia. (2017, November 14). Canada. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canada
Wikipedia. (2017, November 19). Patent. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent
Wikipedia. (2017, March 21). Henry Woodward (inventor). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Woodward_%28inventor%29
Wikipedia. (2017, May 15). Mathew Evans. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathew_Evans