Who invented the light bulb?

How much different would have been our civilization without this technology?

by Grace Madingou

Grace madingou is a phD candidate at polytechnique school of montreal in  electrical engineering

Grace madingou is a phD candidate at polytechnique school of montreal in  electrical engineering

Several inventors have contributed to the development of this revolutionary technology, and their research focused on identifying the perfect cost effective material.

In 1800, Italian inventor Alessandro Volta developed the first practical method of generating electricity, the voltaic pile, which conducted electricity when a copper wire was connected at either end. This Volta’s glowing copper wire is also considered to be one of the earliest manifestations of incandescent lighting. 2 years later, an English inventor Humphrey Davy produced the world's first electric lamp (electric arc lamp) by connecting voltaic piles to charcoal electrode. This lamp was not practical since it burned out too quickly and was too bright for home or workspace.

In 1840, British scientist Warren de la Rue developed an efficiently designed light bulb using a coiled platinum filament in place of copper, but the high cost of platinum kept the bulb from becoming a commercial success. 8 years later, an Englishman William Staite improved the longevity of conventional arc lamps by developing a clockwork mechanism that regulated the movement of the lamps' quick-to-erode carbon rods. But the cost of the batteries used to power Staite’s lamps put a damper on the inventor's commercial ventures.

In 1850, English chemist Joseph Swan solved the cost-effectiveness problem of previous inventors by developing a light bulb that used carbonized paper filaments in place of ones made of platinum. As the light bulb needed a vacuum pumps to extend its lifespan, it was not commercialized. In the meanwhile, an American inventor, Charles Francis Brush, was developing an electric arc lighting system that could be used wherever bright lights were needed.  This system gained traction in Europe and United States during the 1880s.

From 1878 to 1880, Edison and team of researchers tested more than 3,000 designs for light bulb and in November 1879, they filed a patent for an electric lamp with carbon filament. Edison spent the next year finding the perfect filament for his new bulb, testing more than 6,000 plants to discover a carbonized bamboo filaments that could burn for 1200 hours. Bamboo was later used in Edison’s Bulb until their replacement by longer lasting materials in the 1880s and early 1900.

In 1910, An American Physicist William David Coolidge with General Electric improved the company's method of manufacturing tungsten filaments, which is still the primary material used in incandescent bulb filaments today.

In just over a century, lightning systems have revolutionized our civilization from a filaments based light bulbs to compact fluorescents and LED (Light Emitting Diode).  

How much different would have been our civilization without this technology?