While Thomas Edison is credited with inventing the first practical incandescent bulb in 1879, the story of who invented the lightbulb is much more complicated. Indeed, Edison’s patent for the lightbulb was referred to as “an improvement” on existing models.
Throughout the 19th century, inventors searched for a safer and more convenient method of producing light to replace open flames or gaslighting. Electricity became the favorite alternative.
Meanwhile, Thomas Alva Edison was working across the pond to solve the same problems. The 31-year old inventor had 169 patents by that time and had established a research facility in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
Edison developed the infrastructure needed to make incandescent lighting a vital part of society. Edison and his team developed electrical plants to power homes at large and power meters to measure its usage.
In the end, it is Edison who is best remembered as the inventor of the lightbulb, in part for his penchant for publicity and his determination to make the lightbulb a common household item. Certainly, credit belongs to Edison as it was his design and his electrical infrastructure that set the tempo for the world’s lightbulb as we know it today.
Perhaps it is fair to say that Edison’s genius was not so much in his innovation, but rather in his ability to apply practicality to inventions that otherwise may have just stayed in the laboratory.
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