1879: First Incandescent Light Bulb
Innovation: Incandescent light bulb
Location: Menlo Park, New Jersey
By: Thomas A. Edison
Although Thomas Edison is credited to have invented the lightbulb, it is important to note that he simply improved electric lighting. Edison was successful in producing a reliable lighting object because his light bulbs used carbonized bamboo filaments, which were much cheaper than platinum filaments, and could be used for over 1,200 hours (versus 13.5 hours for previous lightbulbs). Also, he received financial support from J. P. Morgan to conduct many trial-and-error experiments before publicly presenting his final product. Light bulbs function with electricity by heating the filaments until the filaments emit light. What set Edison’s relatively cheap and reliable incandescent light bulb apart from previously invented light bulbs were that his light bulbs could run in parallel circuits, were made of insulating substances, and contained on-off switches.
Prior to the invention of the light bulb, people relied on gas lamps, candles, and oil lanterns to work in the dark. The production of the incandescent light bulb resulted in higher productivity; people could continue working even after sunset. For the building industry, this meant continuing construction at night to meet deadlines, lighting of buildings for aesthetic purposes, and illuminating public and private spaces. This invention resulted in the creation of power plants to provide electricity. `