Did Thomas Edison Really Invent The Lightbulb?

*The photo above is in the public domain, if you want to use it*
In today's era of smartphones, virtual reality glasses and smartwatches,  the lightbulb can be considered a primitive device to most. Merely a tungsten filament wrapped around two pieces of carbon rod (not to mention the vacuum sealed glass dome which prevents it from oxidization,) its simplicity makes it an invention which most people overlook. However, did Thomas Edison really invent it?


How Lightbulbs Work

When power is fed through its metal bottom, the incandescent bulb's filament emits a yellowish (or white,) glow. This is achieved by vacuum sealing the light-emitting components in a glass dome which prevents the filament from coming into contact with oxygen. Once the vacuum seal wears off, the tungsten wire oxidizes and burns out completely.


Enlighten Me

Around 1801, Sir Humphrey Davy (a British electrician,) connected two platinum rods together using a piece of wire. The result? A bright yellowish glow which could illuminate an entire room. Although innovative, Davy's invention was quickly criticized as it required a large battery and platinum, making it unsuitable for mass production. However, he opened up new doors which didn't exist in the past.


The Carbon Craze

After hearing about Davy's idea, many investors crossed their fingers and hoped that inventors could come up with a practical bulb that could be used in a home or office space. So, with motivation to spare, work began on a cheaper source of electrical light. With knowledge that some items heat up when electricity is passed through them, Sir Joseph Swan—an English chemist--based his designs off of that principle, and ended up with a filament that was largely based on carbon paper and platinum (therefore producing a cheaper lightbulb.) And, with the help of Frederick DeMoleyens (which vacuum-sealed the components to protect them from oxidization,) the bulb was patented by J.W Starr and secured for future use.


There was, however, one major flaw with its design. The reasoning behind this was that the carbon filament fell apart after a few electric charges were passed through it. Therefore, the bulb was—no pun intended—screwed.


Edison Enlightens the Idea


After hearing about the lightbulb, Edison saw a great fortune which came from its perfection. Therefore, when he was able to do so, Edison recruited a Princeton University student named Francis Moore in order to help with the bulb's design. It was after Edison recruited Moore, however, that lots of bright ideas came to him.


What Francis noticed was that, if a material had low resistance, it would produce less light and crumble in front of somebody's eyes when electricity was passed through it. Then, after experimenting with many various metals and vacuum strengths, Edison finally came up with a viable, cheaper version of the lightbulb which could be mass produced. With a bamboo and carbon inspired filament, he had done it.


So, Did He Invent The Lightbulb?


If you read about any of the things above, then you should know that the answer to this is one simple, two lettered word-NO. Although he did fine tune the bulb in order to make it a decent source of alternative light, he didn’t really do anything else. However, if you read the story, it’s undoubtedly fascinating to think that, hundreds of years ago, people could have come up with a modern day source of electrical light which is widely used today.









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