Who developed the first electric lamp? Who developed the incandescent electric lamps?
The first ELECTRIC LAMP of practical utility was developed by the self-taught Scottish scientist, James Bowman Lindsay, whose first successful experiment was described by the Dundee Advertiser.
Mr Lindsay, a teacher in this town, formerly lecturer to Watt Institution, succeeded on the evening of the 25th July in obtaining a constant electric light. It is upwards of two years since he turned his attention to this subject, but much of that time has been devoted to other avocations. In beauty the light surpasses all others, has no smell, emits no smoke, is incapable of explosion, and not requiring air for combustion can be kept in sealed glass jars. It ignites without the aid of a taper, and seems peculiarly calculated for flax houses, spinning mills, and other places containing combustible materials. It may be sent to any convenient distance, and the apparatus for producing it is contained in a common chest.
It appears likely that Lindsay’s lamps were incandescent, for in a letter to the Dundee Advertiser (30 October 1835) he refers to his use of ‘a glass tube without air’, though it must be conceded that nowhere does he describe a filament. That the lamp had practical utility is clear from the fact that this letter was written by its light, and he further claims that ‘from the same apparatus I can get two or three lights, each of which is fit for reading with’. One lamp would give sufficient illumination for reading a book held 1-1 ft from it. The power source, according to his friend and contemporary, Alexander Maxwell, consisted of galvanic cells. Maxwell’s unpublished ‘Reminiscences’ also reveal facets of Lindsay’s character that explain to some extent the reason why he did not continue developing his invention to the point where it might have achieved commercial application. He was ‘a man of profound learning and untiring scientific research, who, had he been more practical, less diffident, and possessed of greater worldly wisdom, would have gained for himself a good place amongst distinguished men. As it was … he went through life as a poor and modest schoolmaster’. Lindsay himself gave a perfectly straightforward reason for abandoning his experiments and one fully in keeping with the disinterestedness of the man: ‘Having satisfied myself on this subject [i.e. electric light] 1 returned to some glossological investigations that had been left unfinished ….
The first INCANDESCENT ELECTRIC LAMPS were developed independently, but at the same time, by Thomas Alva Edison of Menlo Park, N.J., and by (Sir) Joseph Swan of Newcastle upon Tyne. In view of the rival claims to priority that emanate from both sides of the Atlantic, the exact chronology assumes some importance. Edison began his experiments in September 1878, achieving a satisfactory result a little over 12 months later. The first Edison bulb to burn for a reasonable length of time was Model No. 9 which had a carbonized cotton filament. Under the date 21 October 1879 he wrote in his notebook: ‘No 9 on from 1.30 a.m. till 3 p.m.-13f hours and was then raised to 3 gas jets for one hour then cracked glass and busted.’ The lamp was patented on 1 November 1879, but it soon became apparent that carbonized sewing-thread, which Edison was using for a filament, was not sufficiently durable for constant burning. Early in 1880, therefore, he switched to carbonized paper filaments, and these proved sufficiently long-lasting to be used in the first commercially produced lamps, manufactured in October.