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Fascinating facts about the invention of the
light bulb by Thomas Alva Edison in 1879.

LIGHT BULB
AT A GLANCE:

The modern world is an electrified world. The light bulb, in particular, profoundly changed human existence by illuminating the night and making it hospitable to a wide range of human activity. The electric light, one of the everyday conveniences that most affects our lives, was invented in 1879 by Thomas Alva Edison. He was neither the first nor the only person trying to invent an incandescent light bulb.
THE STORY
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DID YOU KNOW?
Invention: electric light bulb in 1879
Elecric Lamp image courtesy General Electric
Definition: noun / electric light bulb / incandescent lamp
Function: 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 of the 1880's.
Patent: 223,898 (US) issued January 27, 1880
Inventor: Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison photo courtesy General Electric
Criteria: First practical. Modern prototype. Entrepreneur.
Birth: February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio
Death: October 18, 1931 in West Orange, New Jersey
Nationality: American
Milestones:
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
1877 Edward Weston forms Weston Dynamo Machine Company, in Newark, New Jersey.
1878 Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company
1878 Hiram Maxim founded the United States Electric Lighting Company
1878 205,144 William Sawyer and Albon Man 6/18 for Improvements in Electric Lamps
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 223,898 Thomas Edison 1/27 for Electric Lamp and Manufacturing Process
1880 230,309 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Process of Manufacturing Carbon Conductors
1880 230,310 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880 230,953 Hiram Maxim 7/20 for Electrical Lamp
1880 233,445 Joseph Swan 10/19 for Electric Lamp
1880 234,345 Joseph Swan 11/9 for Electric Lamp
1880 Weston Dynamo Machine Company renamed Weston Electric Lighting Company
1880 Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston form American Electric Company
1880 Charles F. Brush forms the Brush Electric Company
1881 Joseph W. Swan founded the Swan Electric Light Company
1881 237,198 Hiram Maxim 2/1 for Electrical Lamp assigned to U.S. Electric Lighting Company
1881 238,868 Thomas Edison 3/15 for Manufacture of Carbons for Incandescent Lamps
1881 247,097 Joseph Nichols and Lewis Latimer 9/13 for Electric Lamp
1881 251, 540 Thomas Edison 12/27 for Bamboo Carbons Filament for Incandescent Lamps
1882 252,386 Lewis Latimer 1/17 for Process of Manufacturing Carbons assigned to U.S. E. L. Co.
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
1883 American Electric Company renamed Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1884 Sawyer & Man Electric Co formed by Albon Man a year after William Edward Sawyer death
1886 George Westinghouse formed the Westinghouse Electric Company
1886 The National Carbon Co. was founded by the then Brush Electric Co. executive W. H. Lawrence
1888 United States Electric Lighting Co. was purchased by Westinghouse Electric Company
1886 Sawyer & Man Electric Co. was purchased by Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889 Brush Electric Company merged into the Thomson-Houston Electric Company
1889 Edison Electric Light Company consolidated and renamed Edison General Electric Company.
1890 Edison, Thomson-Houston, and Westinghouse, the "Big 3" of the American lighting industry.
1892 Edison Electric Light Co. and Thomson-Houston Electric Co. created General Electric Co.
light bulb, electric lamp, incandescent lamp, electric globe, Thomas Edison, Joseph Swan, Hiram Maxim,
Humphrey Davy, James Joule, George Westinghouse, Charles Brush, William Coolidge, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
The Story:
By the time of Edison's 1879 lamp invention, gas lighting was a mature, well-established industry. The gas infrastructure was in place, franchises had been granted, and manufacturing facilities for both gas and equipment were in profitable operation. Perhaps as important, people had grown accustomed to the idea of lighting with gas.

Incandescent lamps make light by using electricity to heat a thin strip of material (called a filament) until it gets hot enough to glow. Many inventors had tried to perfect incandescent lamps to "sub-divide" electric light or make it smaller and weaker than it was in the existing electric arc lamps, which were too bright to be used for small spaces such as the rooms of a house.

Edison was neither the first nor the only person trying to invent an incandescent electric lamp. Many inventors had tried and failed some were discouraged and went on to invent other devices. Among those inventors who made a step forward in understanding the eclectic light were Sir Humphrey Davy, Warren De la Rue, James Bowman Lindsay, James Prescott Joule, Frederick de Moleyns and Heinrich Göbel.

Between the years 1878 and 1892 the electric light industry was growing in terms of installed lights but shrinking in terms of company competition as both Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse determined to control the industry and its advancement. They even formed the Board of Patent Control, a joint arrangement between General Electric and the Westinghouse Company to defend the patents of the two companies in litigation. This proved to be a wise decision as over 600 lawsuits for patent infringement were filed.

The easiest way to understand those turbulent times in the early lighting industry is to follow the company's involved. Of the hundreds of companies in the business, we only cover the major players. We show the flow of inventor's patents and inventor's companies and how the industry ended up monopolized by GE and Westinghouse. Company names listed in GREEN ultimately became part of General Electric. Company names listed in RED ultimately became part of Westinghouse.

American Electric Company.
In the late 1870's high school teachers Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston began experimenting with and patenting improvements on existing arc lamp and dynamo designs. In 1880 after being approached by a group of businessmen from New Britain CT, They all agreed to the formation of a company that would engage in the commercial manufacture of lighting systems (both arc and incandescent) based on their own patents. This was the American Electric Company which existed until 1883 when it was reorganized and was renamed the Thomson-Houston Electric Company.

Brush Electric Company
In 1880, Charles F. Brush forms the Brush Electric Company. That same year he installs the first complete eclectic arc-lighting system in Wabash, Indiana. Wabash was the first American city to be lit solely by electricity and to own its own municipal power plant (that small dynamo driven by a threshing machine engine). The installation in Cleveland the year before had been a demonstration, but Cleveland would soon begin lighting its streets with arc lamps as well. In 1876 Charles F. Brush invented a new type of simple, reliable, self-regulating arc lamp, as well as a new dynamo designed to power it. Earlier attempts at self regulation had often depended on complex clockwork mechanisms that, among other things, could not automatically re-strike an arc if there were an interruption in power. The simpler Brush design for a lamp/dynamo system made central station lighting a possibility for the first time.  Joseph Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company in June 1882. In 1889, Brush Electric Company merged into the Thomson-Houston Electric Company.

Edison Electric Light Company

In the period from 1878 to 1880 Edison and his associates worked on at least three thousand different theories to develop an efficient incandescent lamp.

Edison’s lamp would consist of a filament housed in a glass vacuum bulb. He had his own glass blowing shed where the fragile bulbs were carefully crafted for his experiments. Edison was trying to come up with a high resistance system that would require far less electrical power than was used for the arc lamps. This could eventually mean small electric lights suitable for home use.

By January 1879, at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, Edison had built his first high resistance, incandescent electric light. It worked by passing electricity through a thin platinum filament in the glass vacuum bulb, which delayed the filament from melting. Still, the lamp only burned for a few short hours. In order to improve the bulb, Edison needed all the persistence he had learned years before in his basement laboratory. He tested thousands and thousands of other materials to use for the filament. He even thought about using tungsten, which is the metal used for light bulb filaments now, but he couldn’t work with it given the tools available at that time.

He tested the carbonized filaments of every plant imaginable, including bay wood, boxwood, hickory, cedar, flax, and bamboo. He even contacted biologists who sent him plant fibers from places in the tropics. Edison acknowledged that the work was tedious and very demanding, especially on his workers helping with the experiments. He always recognized the importance of hard work and determination. "Before I got through," he recalled, "I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material."

Edison decided to try a carbonized cotton thread filament. When voltage was applied to the completed bulb, it began to radiate a soft orange glow. Just about fifteen hours later, the filament finally burned out. Further experimentation produced filaments that could burn longer and longer with each test. By the end of 1880, he had produced a 16-watt bulb that could last for 1500 hours and he began to market his new invention.

In Britain, Swan took Edison to court 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. The company was called the Edison and Swan United Electric Company (later known as Ediswan which was then incorporated into Thorn Lighting Ltd). Eventually, Edison acquired all of Swan's interest in the company. Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company in June 1882.

In 1889 the Edison Electric Light Company merged with several other Edison companies to become the Edison General Electric Company. When the Edison General Electric Company merged with Thomson-Houston in 1892, a bitter struggle developed, Edison's name was dropped, and Edison himself had no more involvement with the newly formed General Eclectic Company beyond defending his patents.

In 1903 Willis Whitnew invented a filament that would not blacken the inside of a light bulb. It was a metal-coated carbon filament. In 1906, the General Electric Company was the first to patent a method of making tungsten filaments for use in incandescent light bulbs. The filaments were costly, but by 1910 William David Coolidge had invented an improved method of making tungsten filaments. The tungsten filament outlasted all other types of filaments and Coolidge made the costs practical.

Edison & Swan United Electric Company

In Britain, Joseph Swan took Edison to court 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. The company was called the Edison and Swan United Electric Company (later known as Ediswan). Eventually, Edison acquired all of Swan's interest in the company.

General Electric Company
In 1892, a merger of Edison General Electric Company and Thomson-Houston Electric Company created General Electric Company. 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.

Sawyer & Man Electric Company
William Sawyer and Albon Man are issued Patent No, 205,144 on June 18, 1878 for Improvements in Electric Lamps. In 1884, Albon Man formed the Sawyer & Man Electric Co for the purpose of protecting the  Sawyer-Man electric lamp patent. William Sawyer had died the previous year. In 1886, the Thomson-Houston Electric Company purchased the Sawyer & Man Electric Company and began making incandescent lamps under the Sawyer-Man patents.

Swan Electric Light Company
Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) was a physicist and chemist born in Sunderland, England.
Swan was the first to construct an electric light bulb, but he had trouble maintaining a vacuum in his bulb. In 1850 he began working on a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments in an evacuated glass bulb. By 1860 he 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.

Fifteen years later, in 1875, Swan returned to consider the problem of the light bulb and, with the aid of a better vacuum and a carbonized thread as a filament. The most significant feature of Swan's lamp was that there was little residual oxygen in the vacuum tube to ignite the filament, thus allowing the filament to glow almost white-hot without catching fire. Swan received a British patent for his device in 1878
.
Swan had reported success to the Newcastle Chemical Society and at a lecture in Newcastle in February 1879 he demonstrated a working lamp. Starting that year he began installing light bulbs in homes and landmarks in England. In 1880, Swan gave the world's first large-scale public exhibition of electric lamps at Newcastle upon Tyne England. In 1881 he had started his own company, The Swan Electric Light Company, and started commercial production.

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. The company was called the Edison and Swan United Electric Company (later known as Ediswan). Eventually, Edison acquired all of Swan's interest in the company. Also in 1882 Joseph Swan sold his United States patent rights to the Brush Electric Company, a successful "arc" street light manufacture.

Thomson-Houston Electric Company

In the late 1870's high school teachers Elihu Thomson, a teacher of physics and chemistry, and Edwin Houston, a science teacher, began experimenting with and patenting improvements on existing arc lamp and dynamo designs. In 1880 after being approached by a group of businessmen from New Britain CT, Thomson & Houston agreed to the formation of a company that would engage in the commercial manufacture of lighting systems (both arc and incandescent) based on their own patents. This was the American Electric Company which existed until 1883 when it was reorganized and was renamed the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. .

The company became quite successful and diversified into other electrical markets. In 1886 they purchased the Sawyer & Man Electric Co. and began making incandescent lamps under the Sawyer-Man patents. In 1889 in an attempt to avoid patent disputes over a double-carbon arc lamp design, Thomson-Houston negotiated the purchase of a controlling interest in the Brush company. The Swan Incandescent Light Company was part of the Brush plant so it was included in the takeover. In 1892 Thomson-Houston merged with the Edison companies to form the giant General Electric Company.

United States Electric Lighting Company

Founded in 1878 by the prolific inventor Hiram Maxim, the United States Electric Lighting soon established itself as Thomas Edison's chief rival in the field of incandescent lighting. The company made some of the earliest installations of this new technology using Maxim's patent on a carbon-filament lamp, which was similar to that invented by Edison in 1879. When Maxim left USEL in 1881 to pursue other lines of invention, the company purchased the Weston Electric Lighting Company in Newark, NJ, and the services of its founder Edward Weston. The inventor of a successful "arc" lighting system, Weston, as works manager and chief designer of USEL, developed a comprehensive arc and incandescent system which the USEL began to market in 1882. In January 1882, Lewis Latimer, an employee of USEL, received a patent for the "Process of Manufacturing Carbons," an improved method for the production of light bulb filaments which yielded longer lasting bulbs than Edison's technique. In 1888, United States Electric Lighting Co. was purchased by Westinghouse Electric Company.

Westinghouse Electric Company
In
1886, George Westinghouse formed the Westinghouse Electric Company. The main function of the Electric & Manufacturing Company was to develop and produce "apparatus for the generation, transmission and application of alternating current electricity." The company also produced electric railway motors, producing approximately 75,000 by 1905.

Weston Electric Lighting Company
Founded in New Jersey by Edward Weston in 1880, the company's innovations included the Weston standard cell, the first accurate portable voltmeters and ammeters, the first portable light meter, and many other electrical developments. In 1881, the United States Electric Lighting Company purchased the Weston Electric Lighting Company, and the services of its founder Edward Weston. The inventor of a successful "arc" lighting system, Weston, as works manager and chief designer of USEL, developed a comprehensive arc and incandescent system which the USEL began to market in 1882.

Woodward and Evans Light
On July 24, 1874 a Canadian patent was filed for the Woodward and Evans Light by a Toronto medical electrician named Henry Woodward and a colleague Mathew Evans, who was described in the patent as a "Gentleman" but in reality a hotel keeper. They built their lamp with a shaped rod of carbon held between electrodes in a glass globe filled with nitrogen. Woodward and Evans found it impossible to raise financial support for the development of their invention and in 1875 Woodward sold a share of their Canadian patent to Thomas Edison.

The Edison Vision
The economic effect of electric lighting went far beyond increasing the workday. Profits generated by the electric lamp, in effect, paid for a network of generators and wires. This infrastructure then became available for a whole new class of inventions: appliances and equipment that by the 1930s had transformed the home and the workplace.

Edison didn't just invent a light bulb, either. He put together what he knew about electricity with what he knew about gas lights and invented a whole system of electric lighting. This meant light bulbs, electricity generators, wires to get the electricity from the power station to the homes, fixtures (lamps, sockets, switches) for the light bulbs, and more. It was like a big jigsaw puzzle--and Edison made up the pieces as well as fitted them together. He did it his way.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Thomas Alva Edison Biography    from The Great Idea Finder
Joseph Swan Biography    from The Great Idea Finder
Louis Latimer Biography   from The Great Idea Finder
George Westinghouse Biography  
from The Great Idea Finder
Evoloution of Electricity   
from The Great Idea Finder
History of Household Items    from The Great Idea Finder
Energy History    from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

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.

Edison: A Life of Invention
by Paul Israel / Hardcover: 480 pages / John Wiley & Sons; (October 1998)
The well-known inventions--the incandescent lightbulb, the phonograph, the kinetoscope for motion pictures, the carbon transmitter for telephones--are all here in detail, and so are the lesser-known ones as well as some Edisonian projects that did not succeed.
Edison : A Biography (Limited Availability)
by Matthew Josephson / Paperback: 528 pages / Wiley; Reprint edition (February 11, 1992)
Regarded as the classic standard biography on Thomas Edison. It is the only biography written in the last 40 years to be recommended by the official voice of the caretakers of the Edison Laboratory National Monument in New Jersey which houses all of Edison's original records, sketches, notes, correspondence and memoranda.
At Work With Thomas Edison
by Blaine McCormick / Paperback: 272 pages / Entrepreneur Press; 1 edition (December 1, 2001)
In addition to patenting over 1,000 inventions, Edison was a capable businessman who recognized that innovation is a business, emphasizing the importance of creating a company that produces more than just one good idea. Edison never invented simply to create a new thing, but rather focused on crafting something that would have a practical use.
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.
Edison: Inventing the Century  (Limited availability.)

Neil Baldwin / Paperback / Published 1996
Using unprecedented access to Edison family papers and years of research at the Edison corporate archives, Neil Baldwin offers a revealing portrait of one of America's seminal inventors.

ON THE SCREEN:
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.


ON THE WEB:

Edison's Light Bulb
From the The Franklin Institute Science Museum.
(URL: sln.fi.edu/qa98/attic12/attic12.html)
GE Follows Thomas Edison's Lead and Shines a Light on Innovation
What would Thomas Edison think of incandescent lights that last 750 hours or filter out harsh colors of the spectrum to provide a purer, cleaner light? Little did he know his light bulb that lasted only 40 hours would lead to products like the Reveal® bulb, which has sold more than 170 million since 2001.
(URL: www.ge.com)
United States Electric Lighting - Weston Electric Lighting Company
Founded in 1878 by the prolific inventor Hiram Maxim, the USEL soon established itself as Thomas Edison's chief rival in the field of incandescent lighting. The company purchased the Weston Electric Lighting Company in Newark, NJ, and the services of its founder Edward Weston.
(URL: www.ieee.org/organizations/history_center/milestones_photos/central_station.html)
Incandescent Lamp Patents
Presented by Kilokat's antique light bulb site. A bulb collectors dream come true.
(URL: bulbcollector.com/gateway/Patent_Archive/Incandescent_Lamp_Patents)
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.
(URL: americanhistory.si.edu/lighting/index.htm)
Thomson-Houston
Elihu Thomson joined with Edwin Houston, a fellow teacher, experimenting in things such as arc-lighting and centrifugal force. They made several inventions and improvements in both fields.
(URL: www.swampscotthistory.org/docs/thomson.html)
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.
(URL: www.electricmuseum.com)
Weston Electric Lighting Company
Founded in New Jersey by Edward Weston in 1888, the company's innovations included the Weston standard cell, the first accurate portable voltmeters and ammeters, the first portable lightmeter, and many other electrical developments.
(URL: weston.ftldesign.com/)

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.
(URL: www.lafavre.us/brush/brushbio.htm)
Edison Invents!
Allm about Edison and his inventions. Thomas Alva Edison changed our world! His genius gave us electric lights in our home. From the Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian.
(URL: invention.smithsonian.org/centerpieces/edison/default.asp)
Edisonian
This site presented by the Edisonian Museum offers photographs and descriptions of many of Thomas Edison's inventions.
(URL: www.edisonian.com/)
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Located at Inventure Place, the online home of creative minds.Thomas Edison was inducted in 1973 for his invention of the Electric Lamp Patent Number 223,898.
(URL: www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/50.html)
Invention Dimension - Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. Featured Thomas Alva Edison for his invention of the Electric Light Bulb.
(URL: web.mit.edu/invent/iow/edison.html)
Consequences of Edison's Lamp
Over the course of the next half century two especially significant social effects became clear. We gained control over light in homes and offices, independent of the time of day. And the electric light brought networks of wires into homes and offices, making it relatively easy to add appliances and other machines. From the Lighting Revolution at the Smithsonian.
(URL: americanhistory.si.edu/lighting/19thcent/consq19.htm)
Thomas A. Edison Papers
Rutgers University has a section of their site dedicated to Edison. The goal of the project was to organize and publish a select edition of the estimated 5 million pages of Thomas Alva Edison's technical, business, and personal papers.
(URL: edison.rutgers.edu/)

The Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company
The main function of the Electric & Manufacturing Company was to develop and produce "apparatus for the generation, transmission and application of alternating current electricity."
(URL:
memory.loc.gov/ammem/papr/west/westelec.html)
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
(URL: www.centennialbulb.org/facts.htm)
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.
(URL: home.frognet.net/~ejcov/index40.html)


WORDS OF WISDOM:
"The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study and has required the most elaborate experiments. I was never myself discouraged, or inclined to be hopeless of success. I cannot say the same for all my associates." - Thomas Alva Edison

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." -
Thomas Alva Edison

HOW IT WORKS:
The incandescent light bulb (archaically known as the electric lamp) uses a glowing wire filament heated to white-hot by electrical resistance, to generate light (a process known as thermal radiation or incandescence). The bulb is the glass enclosure which keeps the filament in a vacuum or low-pressure noble gas, or a halogen gas in the case of quartz-halogen lamps in order to prevent oxidation of the filament at high temperatures. Because of its poor efficiency and yellowish color, incandescent light bulb are gradually being replaced in many applications by fluorescent lights, high-intensity discharge lamps, LEDs, and other devices.

You can view an incandescent light bulb illustration at the Merriam-Webster Web site. The
incandescent light bulb consists of six componets;: 1 bulb containing gas, 2 filament, 3 connecting and supporting wires, 4 exhaust tube, 5 screw base, 6 base contact.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • 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 January 30, 2007.
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