The electric light wasn’t Thomas Edison’s first invention, nor was he the first to create an alternative to gaslight. Electric lights already existed on a streetlight scale when, on this day in 1879, Edison tested the one he’s famous for. Though he didn’t come up with the whole concept, his light bulb was the first that proved practical, and affordable, for home illumination. The trick had been choosing a filament that would be durable but inexpensive, and the team at Edison’s “invention factory” in Menlo Park, New Jersey, tested more than 6,000 possible materials before finding one that fit the bill: carbonized bamboo.
Edison bragged about the filament’s efficacy and economy to a New York Times reporter who toured the factory just after his successful test run:
While Edison considered the invention his “crowning triumph,” it joined the long list of contributions that made him a record-holder for sheer number of U.S. patents — 1,093 — until the 21st century. His creations included the movie camera and the microphone, the phonograph and the mimeograph, the stock ticker and even the “stencil-pen,” a precursor to the tattoo gun.
And although his accomplishments spoke for themselves, Edison was equally prolific, and ambitious, in inventing myths to boost his reputation as a larger-than-life innovator, as a 1979 TIME profile notes. As a result, his inventions weren’t just scientific discoveries, but also prevarications. For one thing, he often claimed to be entirely self-taught, having never attended a day of school.
“Untrue,” says TIME. “He had at least three years of formal education as a child — a stint that was not unusually short in the rural Ohio and Michigan of his youth. As a budding inventor, he also attended classes in chemistry at New York City’s Cooper Union after realizing that his self-taught knowledge of that science was inadequate.”
He also boasted of never needing more than three hours of sleep a night. That’s a half-truth, although the full story may be even more impressive: He managed to piece together a full night’s rest by napping artfully throughout the day. Per TIME:
Read TIME’s piece on the 100th birthday of the light bulb, here in the archives: The Quintessential Innovator
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Known to researchers, it was not Edison who originally thought of inventing the incandescent lamp it was only him who furnished it with his brilliant ideas and concepts. He come up with it for 5 decades and finally decided to do what he thought, he revise and continued what other inventors did in the making of Electric light among these inventors was Swan. He wanted to find a perfect practical electrical home light. So what he did was continue to study on this until he was able to perfect it with the help of his other assistant. It was through the help of his assistants that they experimented with different things like carbonized cotton thread, platinum and species of vegetable fiber.
They were so diligent and intelligent. They never surrendered in the experiment until they finally found a perfect material for the perfect electric light bulb. Edison wanted to find a material that would not easily be burn out and consumed while it produces the light so practically and less expensive that will be able to compete with the use of gas as lighting. There was such a great planning for this experimentation, it took Edison years to finally decided and laid up the perfect plan for the invention. Edison and his assistants encountered problems along the way as they conducted the experiment. Edison envisioned that a successful light would have to be incandescent so that it would not be burn along the process.
He had technical problems as he started his invention. He experimented on different materials until he finally discovered a perfect tool for his perfect incandescent lamp. This took place in his laboratory in the Menlo Park on October 1879. It was on this date that Edison’s incandescent lamp was finally perfected. The invention of Edison opened great opportunities to America and Edison himself. Many industries were built after his invention. Definitely, Edison caused the America to be technically progressive for his invention opened the doors for commercialism and built industries that practically helped the economy of America in one way or another. He also served as a model for the other hopefuls there to be like him. He serves as an inspiration for them, that poverty would not be a hindrance for one to succeed and achieve his dreams in life.
Invention of the Light Bulb by Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison, a United States inventor. He is the most famous of all Americans to make a career of inventing; Edison was called the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” which was his laboratory for sometime, found in New Jersey. He was especially important for his electrical inventions.
Like many inventors of his era, Edison struggled to perfect a system of practical electrical home lighting. He experimented with arc lighting in 1875, but became convinced that successful home lighting would have to be incandescent; that is, use a material that would glow when an electric current passed through it, but not burn in the process. He studied earlier experiments and in 1878 announced that he had the technical problems solved and would create a practical incandescent lamp within six months.
The greatest problem was not creating a light for others had done that before but finding a filament that would not quickly burn out, and producing the lamp cheaply enough to compete with gas lighting. Edison began by experimenting with carbon as a filament, but rejected it and tried using platinum. He discovered that a platinum filament would have to be very thin to provide the resistance necessary for use in the high- voltage electrical system he envisioned. However, when made thin enough, the filaments were too fragile and broke. After numerous experiments with platinum, Edison returned to carbon filaments.
In October, 1879, Edison and his assistants began to experiment with a filament made of carbonized cotton thread. Enclosed in a glass bulb with a near- perfect vacuum, it shed a bright light and burned for many hours. The practical incandescent lamp had become a reality.
Edison and his assistants continued to search for a better filament material. They tried carbonized paper, and tested some species of vegetable fibers. They have experimented bamboo, then Tungsten and the Nitrogen for vacuum, but essentially Edison’s lamp was the same as those used today.
The incandescent lamp or the electric light bulb brought new opportunities for Edison and to his country, America. Several new industries, including the electric light and power industry, were built based on his invention. He was awarded 1, 093 United States patents. One of his greatest contributions was the development of the privately financed research organization employing expert scientists and technicians. This system, carried on by private industry, has been responsible for much of America’s technical progress since 1900.
Edison excelled in the ability to bring together seemingly unrelated scientific principles, grasp their meaning, and put them into practical use. When he was only 31 his reputation as a practical inventor was so well established that a group of investors provided him with $300,000 for a project that many scientists said was impossible and that was the development of incandescent light.
He developed products for which he perceived an immediate commercial application which eventually has greatly helped the economy of America. In 1915, Edison became president of the United States Naval Consulting Board, which is formed to develop inventions to improve the defensive power of the Navy.
Edison’s invention of the electric bulb has brought great opportunities for America, through it their industry was opened and became much promising than ever. During World War I, Edison also took part in helping America, when he created listening devices to detect submarines, underwater search light, water –penetrating projectile, a device for detecting enemy airplanes and a telephone system for ships. Many honors came to Edison which also brought fame to America. The French government made him a chevalier of the Legion of Honor and eventually a commander of that order.
Indeed, the discovery of the incandescent lamp by Thomas Alva Edison was really important for through it many doors of opportunity were opened for his country, America. In one way it has helped made the country unite and be proud of one of the citizen of their country who aimed high and achieved a lot in his field. It served as an encouragement among the rest of the Americans that poverty and physical incapability can not hinder one from achieving his dreams. Just like Edison who experience poverty once in his life, who was a railroad worker, sold candies, fruits and newspaper and then became partially deaf after his work in the rail road. Edison was optimistic and continued his dreams through his inventions that made him renowned all over the world by being a great and intelligent inventor.
- Conot, R. E. Thomas A. Edison: s Streak of Luck (1979; DaCapo Press reprint, 1986).
- Greene, Carol. Thomas Alva Edison: Bringer of Light (Children’s Press, 1985).
- Lampton, C. F. Thomas Alva Edison (Watts, 1988).