When asked who invented the light bulb there are those who quickly answer that it was Thomas Edison. Unfortunately it was not Edison who invented the light bulb since there are at least 22 others who have invented something that resembles something like it. There were actually others who had come up with the idea to generate light from electricity.
Thomas Edison’s invention may not be the first but it is one that far exceeds many of the earlier inventions. It is noted that Edison did not just create a new type of light bulb he also created an integrated lighting system.
As early as the 1800’s there have been inventors who have tried to convert electricity and produce light. Sir Humphry Davy was one who was a bit successful. He was an English physician who was able to pass an electric current through strips of platinum. The only drawback with his experiments was that the platinum strips dissipated rather quickly and he was unable to create light.
He then created the Arc lamp in 1809. He was able to make an electrical connection among a couple of charcoal rods that were connected to a battery. The light was quite bright however it was small as well. Though we can not credit Sir Humphry Davy as the one who invented the light bulb he did add to its development.
The next 50 years after Davy’s success will bring up others who would strive to lengthen the life of the light produced from electricity. A notable inventor is Warren de la Rue who was able to make a more efficient design. He used a platinum coil in a vacuum tube that produced light a lot longer than previous inventions.
The drawback to his success is in the cost of producing his bulb. Platinum is too expensive making it too costly for commercial production. We may put a bit of credit to de la Rue for progress in his field but not as the one who invented the light bulb.
Joseph Wilson Swan
Joseph Swan is both a chemist and a physicist, which may add to the reason for his success. He used carbon paper filaments in his patented bulbs in 1878. He was even able to start his own bulb company in the 1880s.
You can say that Edison is Swan’s counterpart since both were busy working on each of their bulbs on different continents. Thomas Edison experimented on thousands of possible filaments. Edison’s breakthrough came in 1879 having been able to use a filament that burned for more than 13 hours. Its features are precursors to the light bulbs we have today.
The invention of the light bulb came as a process. Thus we can’t name a single person who invented the light bulb. Each one who contributed to its development had a share in its success.