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Endesa - Electricity, Gas, People

Who actually invented the light bulb?

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Before rushing to answer, it is worth noting that the light bulb was actually invented 71 years before Edison patented it. A century later, the revolutionary LED lights were invented.

They have become so commonplace that they are often taken for granted. Each year, around 2,500 million light bulbs of all sorts are sold, generating profits of more than 1 billion euros.

They are everywhere, connected to switches, cutting out the darkness at the touch of a button. Nobody remembers the darkness and we only use candles to set the mood for romantic evenings.

However, the light bulb is a relatively new invention. We will summarise the history of the light bulb, from the relatively imperfect beginnings (Humphry Davy was the pioneer…but his invention barely worked) to the LED revolution (long-lasting and more efficient), to the brightest of them all: Thomas Alva Edison, who perfected the light bulb for the market and became a millionaire... and also became known as the inventor.

Brief history of the light bulb

  • 1809: Humphry Davy attached a fine charcoal strip between the ends of the wires connected to a battery. This is considered to be the first light bulb.
  • 1840: Warren de la Rue put a coiled platinum filament inside a sealed vacuum tube. He created a long-lasting light, but it was far too expensive.
  • 1875: Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans patented the light bulb, which was basically the same as that of three decades before.
  • 1879: Joseph Wilson Swan presented an enclosed glass bulb, from which all air had been removed, platinum lead wires, and a light-emitting element made from carbon, which did not last very long when actually installed.
  • 1880: Thomas Edison, having purchased Woodward and Evans’ patent, presented a light bulb with a carbonated bamboo filament with a lamp life of 600 hours. This was the first real commercial model.
  • 1913: Irving Langmuir invented neon lights by filling the light bulb with an inert gas.
  • 1997: Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura managed to create the first bright blue light-emitting diode (LED) lamp.

The light bulb was actually invented by Humphry Davy, but the glow did not last very long. Edison perfected it