It was 140 years ago today….a (brief!) history of the lightbulb

140 years, on October 14th 1878, Thomas Edison filed his first patent application for "Improvement In Electric Lights". The first successful test took place just over a year later on October 22th 1879, lasting 13.5 hours. In tribute to Edison’s legacy this article looks at his contribution to the invention of the lightbulb and the impact this has had on the world.

Whilst many credit Edison as the “inventor” of eclectic light, some historians claim there were over 20 inventors of incandescent lamps prior to Edison’s version. However, it is undeniable that he created the first commercially practical incandescent light, revolutionising the technology and making it economically viable.

Most historians credit the beginning of this journey to Humphrey Davy who, in 1809, demonstrated an ‘arc lamp’ to the Royal Society in London. His invention produced its illumination by creating a brilliant electric spark between two charcoal rods. But the arc lamp needed too much power to be practical for the home and was only used for applications where a brilliant source of light was needed, for example lighthouses.

Scientists then began to look for a solution that overcame the problem of incandescent materials catching fire or melting. Hence the idea of enclosing the ‘burner’ in a glass bulb with the air pumped out. Many inventors are accredited for work in this area, most notably Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison.

After filing his first patent in October 1878, his journey to the actual lightbulb took years.  The first successful experiment, lasting 13.5 hours, took place just over a year later on October 22th 1879. He continued to test several types of material and by November 4th, 1879, he filed another patent for an electric lamp that used "a carbon filament or strip coiled and connected ... to platina contact wires". Several months after the patent was granted, Edison and his team discovered that a carbonised bamboo filament could last over 1200 hours.

Edison made the first public demonstration of his incandescent light bulb on December 31, 1879, in Menlo Park. Stating during its public release his intention to "make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles." Lighting technology has continued to grow ever since, with Nick Holonyak, Jr., inventing the first visible-spectrum LED in the form of red diodes in 1962.

LED technology has now reached a point where LED lights generally use 80% less energy than an equivalent incandescent or halogen bulb. However switching to LED lighting can be complicated and time consuming. Many businesses have turned to ElectriQL for help as we can do all the hard work for them by providing a full, stress-free turnkey service, which includes design, project management and financial management with no capital outlay! To find out how we could help your business visit

We are very proud to have stayed at the forefront of lighting technology.  Whilst we weren’t there 140 years ago when Thomas Edison filed his first patent, we have spent the last 26 years watching the industry grow and changing with it. Whatever changes are to come in this industry, we shall be here to help our customers adapt and utilise the latest technology.

Contact us today to discuss any lighting requirements you may have. You can call 0800 917 721 or visit to find out more about our other services.

You can also email [email protected]

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