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Sunday, 17 January 2016

Light Bulb

As early as 1850, the English chemist Joseph Swan (October 31, 1828 – May 27, 1914)  was experimenting with carbon filaments in glass bulbs, but the pumps available in those days did not pump out enough air, so his results were disappointing. Still, by 1860, and some twenty years before Thomas Edison demonstrated his lights, Swan had a workable light-bulb with a carbon filament.

Joseph Swan's primitive electric light utilized a filament of carbonized paper in an evacuated glass bulb. The lack of a good vacuum and an adequate electric source, however, resulted in a short lifetime for the bulb and inefficient light.

Joseph Swan

Joseph Swan had already invented the light bulb but the American inventor Thomas Edison wanted to produce a long lasting one.  Swan publicly demonstrated a working lamp on February 3, 1879 to an audience of over seven hundred people in the lecture theater of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle upon Tyne, Sir William Armstrong presiding. He predicted a great future for electric lighting. Gas company shares crashed as a result of the noises Swan and Edison were making,

Sir John Tyndall, Lord Kelvin, and others were formed into a committee of inquiry to look into this new electric light, which they dismissed. It had little merit, they said. "It is good enough for our transatlantic friends but unworthy of the attention of practical or scientific man.”
Carbon filament lamp (E27 socket, 220 volts, approx. 30 watts, left side: running with 100 volts)By Ulfbastel - Own work 

The first street to be lit by an incandescent light bulb was Mosley Street, in Newcastle upon Tyne, which was lit by Joseph Swan's incandescent lamp also in February 1879. Subsequently, Newcastle was one of the first cities in the world to be fully lit up by electric lighting.

The first street in the United States to be lit by an incandescent light bulb, and second overall, was the Public Square road system in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 29, 1879.

The Blackpool Illuminations in the English seaside town of Blackpool were switched on for the first time on September 18, 1879. They were described as 'Artificial sunshine', and consisted of just eight arc lamps which lit up the Promenade.

Today, the Blackpool Illuminations are held each autumn. Dubbed as "the greatest free light show on earth", they are 6 miles (10 km) long and use over one million bulbs.

Illuminations on Blackpool promenade

Swan's house, Underhill on Kells Lane in Low Fell, Gateshead, was the world's first house to have working light bulbs installed, closely followed by Lord Armstrong's mansion in November 1880.

Edison worked thousands of hours on the electric light bulb experimenting with 1,200 different varieties of bamboo before finding the ideal one for the filament in 1879. He used over 6,000 substances until he found a carbonized bamboo fibre that remained lit for up to 1,200 hours in a vacuum.

"Edison Lightbulb Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits" by Tieum512 - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.
Edison had already received the patent for his incandescent lamp on January 27, 1880, by the time Swan got around to patenting his light bulb. This meant that Edison secured the field, even though Swan had both developed and demonstrated his lamp first. The Edison-Swan Electric Company was formed in Britain to avoid a long and messy battle.

So new-fangled was the light bulb in the 19th century, it came with a warning: "This room is equipped with Edison Electric Light. Do not attempt to light with match. Simply turn key on wall by the door. The use of electricity for lighting is in no way detrimental to health, nor does it effect the soundness of sleep."

Electric light bulbs were safer and more efficient than the gas lamps that lit the homes and streets at the time. There was no flame or dirty smoke yet it took decades for the technology to catch on, as municipal authorities had invested heavily in gas lighting.

The oldest known working light bulb hangs from the ceiling of Livermore Fire Station no. 6 in Livermore, California. The light bulb was first installed in a Livermore firehouse on L Street in 1901, replacing the kerosene lanterns that helped firefighters load hoses and shovels for night calls.


A patent for the frosted electric light bulb was filed by Marvin Pipkin in 1925. The frosting inside the light bulb created less glare because it diffused the light emitted, spreading it over a wider area, providing a much softer glow.

By recycling just one glass bottle, the amount of energy that is being saved is enough to light a 100 watt bulb for four hours.

LED light bulbs don’t burn out; they just dim over time.

Only licensed electricians may change a light bulb in Victoria, Australia.

Bright light cause 35 percent of people to sneeze.

Sources The Independent, Europress Family Encyclopedia 1999

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