The History of Light Bulbs: From Incandescent to Fluorescent Bulb and LED

Out of all of the inventions that mankind has brought about, there is one that has made so many of the other inventions possible. The light bulb has so drastically changed the course of human events, that it only seems fitting to learn a little more about this incredible invention.

Everyone knows that the light bulb was invented in 1879 by Thomas Edison, right? Wrong! Artificial electric light first happened in 1810 when Englishman Humphrey Davy invented a lamp connecting a battery to coal using two wires that caused the coal to become electrically charged and glow. Then came Edison right? Nope! It was Joseph Swan in 1860 who patented the first incandescent lamp with a filament, or the first light bulb. In 1878, Swan replaced the filament, originally made of paper, with one made of cotton thread and demonstrated it to the world, a full year before Edison. Edison bought the patent and began to work on improving the life span of the light bulb, eventually getting it to last from 1200-1500 hours instead of only 13 1/2 hours.

After his work with the incandescent bulb, Edison moved on to fluorescent lighting, seeing the potential for it’s use commercially. In 1896, he invented a fluorescent lamp that used a coating of calcium tungstate as the fluorescing substance and had it patented in 1907. Fluorescent lighting really took off during World War II and by 1951 in the US, more lighting was produced by fluorescent lights than incandescent bulbs.

In the 1960′s, General Electric, Texas Instruments and RCA Laboratories began developing the LED, or Light Emitting Diode, lights. Light emitting materials had been around since the early 1900's but hadn’t been properly researched. Through their research, it was discovered that when electric currents were applied to crystals of gallium arsenide, the crystals gave off infrared radiation. The first visible light emitted from LED’s was red, which have been used in indicator devices since the 1970′s, followed by blue in 1971 and green, amber, yellow, and white in the early 1990′s. It was during this time when energy efficient light bulbs facts were also discovered.

Incandescent, fluorescent and energy efficient light bulbs LED are everywhere these days, from giant billboards to restaurant signs to the lamps in our own homes. Imagine all the hours of work that were put into these inventions by so many dedicated inventors. Truly no invention of the 20th century has so drastically changed the lives of people worldwide as the light bulb. If only Thomas Edison could read LED light bulb reviews today, he would see the light!

(by US Business Week: The Latest Business News)