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Fascinating facts about Joseph Swan
inventor of the light bulb in 1879.
1860, Joseph Swan was able to demonstrate a working device, and obtained a UK patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp. However, the lack of good vacuum and an adequate electric source resulted in a short lifetime for the bulb and an inefficient light.
In 1882, Swan took Edison to court in Britain for patent infringement. Edison lost and as part of the settlement, Edison was forced to take Swan in as a partner in his British electric works
Inventor: Joseph Wilson Swan
Criteria: First to invent. First to patent. Entrepreneur.
Birth: October 31, 1828, Sunderland, Durham, England
Death: May 27, 1914 in Warlingham, Surrey, England.
Nationality: British
Invention: electric light bulb in 1879
Edison-Swan light bulp photo courtesy Early Technology
Function: noun / electric light bulb
Definition: An electric lamp in which a filament is heated to incandescence by an electric current. Today's incandescent light bulbs use filaments made of tungsten rather than carbon,
Patents: 233,445 (US) issued October 19, 1880
234,345 (US) issued November 9, 1880
1850 Joseph W. Swan began working on a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments
1860 Swan
obtained a UK patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp
1878 Swan receives a UK patent for an improved
incandescent lamp in a vacuum tube
1879 Swan
began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England.
1880 233,445 Joseph Swan 10/19 for Electric Lamp
1880 234,345 Joseph Swan 11/9 for Electric Lamp
1881 Joseph W. Swan founded the Swan Electric Light Company
1882 Edison's UK operation merged with Swan to form the Edison & Swan United Co. or "Edi-swan"
1882 Joesph Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company
ARY: light bulb, electric lamp, incandescent lamp, electric globe, CAP, Thomas Edison, Joseph Swan,
Charles Brush, SIP, history, biography, inventor, invention, story, facts.
The Story:


Thomas Alva Edison Biography    from The Great Idea Finder
Evolution of Electricity   
from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder
Energy History    from The Great Idea Finder

100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages (1983)
/ Bluewood Books 
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on inventions.

Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.
Brandy, Balloons, & Lamps: Ami Argand, 1750-1803 (Limited availability.)
by John J. Wolfe / Hardcover - 240 pages (June 1999) / Southern Illinois Univ Pr (Txt);
Little has been written about Ami Argand and the development of the Argand lamp, a two-air draft burner for oil lamps, especially as his discovery is generally recognized as the first scientific advancement in lighting.
The Lightbulb  (Limited availability.)
by Joseph Wallace / School & Library Binding - 80 pages (September 1999) / Atheneum
When Thomas Alva Edison was a boy, he couldn't just flick a switch to turn on the light if he wanted to finish reading a book after the sun had set. Then, in 1879, he invented the ightbulb, and houses, shops, factories, schools, streets, ballparks -- every place you could think of, indoors and out -- could at last be easily illuminated after dark.

Thomas Edison
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 50 Minutes / Bipgraphy Channel / Less than $25.00 / Also VHS
Life in the modern world would be unthinkable without his inventions. More than any other individual, he paved the way for the future. Thomas Alva Edison has rightly earned a place among the most important men in history.


My Uncle Joseph Swan
About 1918 two nieces of Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) wrote a biography of their father, John Cameron Swan and his older brother of Joseph Wilson Swan. A short chapter from that book gives their story about their world-famous uncle.
Joseph Swan Biography
Although the English physicist and chemist Joseph Swan is most remembered for making an early electric light bulb, he also invented a dry photographic process. This invention lead to a huge improvement in photography and progress toward the development of modern photographic film.

Incandescent Lamp Patents
Presented by Kilokat's antique light bulb site. A bulb collectors dream come true.
Lighting a Revolution
This web site accompanies an exhibition at the National Museum of American History exploring the process of invention. The story is told in two parallel sections comparing Thomas Edison's light bulb invention with several electric lighting inventions of a century later.
Electric Museum
Charles F. Brush invented a new type of simple, reliable, self-regulating arc lamp, as well as a new dynamo designed to power it. Site maintained by Charles Brush the great grandson of the founder of Brush Electric Company.

Charles Brush
Charles F. Brush designed and developed an electric arc lighting system that was adopted throughout the United States and abroad during the 1880's. His inventive genius ranked with an elite group of electric pioneers including Thomas A. Edison.
Guinness Book of World Records
The oldest known working lightbulb was first installed at the fire department hose cart house in 1901. Then moved to fire station at First and McLeod, then to its present site in 1976 at the fire station, 4550 East Ave., Livermore, California
Early Incandescent Lamps
The history of the electric incandescent lamp can be considered to have begun with the invention of the voltaic pile by Alessandro Volta in 1800. Although the earlier history needs to be revealed in detail, this site concentrates mainly on lamp development between the years 1880-1925.
Picture of Early Edison-Swan light bulb and holder 1880
Early Technology was founded in 1972 and trades from Monkton House, Old Craighall, Edinburgh, Scotland UK. We aim to help collectors and institutions build collections in all fields of technology - and a few outside,


"There are no inventions without a pedigree, meaning that nothing is developed in complete isolation, an inventor always draws on the work of others that have gone before." - Joseph Swan


  • General Electric, GE is the only company listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Index today that was also included in the original index in 1896.
Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Reference Sources in BOLD Type. This page revised October 17, 2006.

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