And Edison said: let there be light!

We’ve been screwing light bulbs into our lights for almost 140 years now- a simple action that has brought brightness all over the world. After so long the electric light bulb has become a firm fixture in our everyday lives, and yet it increasingly falls into the category of everyday objects that are thoroughly underrated. For this reason, we dedicate today’s Fact Friday to this ingenious and indispensable invention. Now without further ado …

Inventor of the electric light bulb

But who was actually behind the oh-so-brilliant turned commonplace invention? Do a quick Google search for the words “light bulb” and the name “Edison” inevitably appears. And he did indeed invent the light bulb, on October 21, 1879. The American inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, created the first carbon filament lamp, which burned for several days. That may not sound like much, but at that time a lighting duration of over 40 hours was unthinkable. Edison’s principles were as follows: electric current flows through a wire, generating heat through friction. The material then heats up and eventually begins to glow. To prevent the wire from burning, it must be enclosed in a vacuum.

The inventive process behind the light bulb

Only three months after creating the light bulb, Edison patented it, making him a pioneer for a new era. In 1880 a small manufacturing plant for glass bulbs opened in Menlo Park, New Jersey. This became the first light bulb factory. Edison had already caught the public eye by illuminating the park with his new light bulbs stretched across wires, hanging from tree to tree. A year later at the Paris World Fair in 1891, Edison presented brass thread that was not only simple to produce, but much safer for public use. And with that, the light bulb as we know it today was complete.

But is that how it really happened?

As nice as Edison’s success story sounds, it isn’t without its darker side. An article that appeared in 2007 in Deutschlandfunk reported: “Although the American Edison is the official inventor of the light bulb, another story has persisted through today.” According to Deutschlandfunk Heinrich Göbel, a German watchmaker, had already invented the first working light bulb in New York in 1854. The problem: he had forgotten to patent his invention. What followed was a fight between Edison and Göbel for credit as inventor of the light bulb, a battle that lives on for the general public to this day.

¹ https://www.deutschlandfunkkultur.de/wer-die-gluehbirne-wirklich-erfand.950.de.html?dram:article_id=134885

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