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Thomas Edison DID NOT Invent the Light Bulb!

Updated on March 24, 2012

Thomas Edison DID NOT Invent the Light Bulb

Ask any school kid in America who invented the light bulb and they will answer immediately, “Thomas Edison”. But to say that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb is actually a fallacy. Edison did not invent the light bulb, and he also did not get the first patent to the design of the light bulb as we know it. So why do we all think that he did?

Thomas Edison is usually given the credit for inventing the light bulb, but in reality, he only IMPROVED on other designs that had been created by other inventors. Sure, he owned a “power” company, which would later be known as General Electric. And after all, if you don’t have the electricity to light a bulb, it is, by all accounts, just a bulb, right? But the truth is that light bulbs were in use and being used fifty years before Edison ever applied for a patent. Yes, the light bulb predates Edison’s 1879 patent by FIVE, count them, five, decades.

Moreover, a British inventor by the name of Joseph Swan was the first one to obtain the patent for the very same light bulb that Edison patented – one year prior to Edison doing so. Swan had unveiled his light bulb in England a full decade before Edison announced to the world that he had, in fact, invented the world’s first light bulb. But it was a carbon copy of the bulb that was unveiled ten years prior by Swan.

Swan would later go on to sue Edison for infringing on his patent. Edison lost his suit in the British court systems, and was forced to name Swan as a partner in his British electricity company, which would be called Edison & Swan. Ultimately, troubles back in the U.S. would see Edison stripped of his light bulb patent rights altogether.

It is also worth pointing out that regardless of who claimed to invent the first light bulb, it only lasted for around 150 hours. Today’s light bulbs last at least ten times that long. And in the case of expensive LED light bulbs, you can get 100K hours out of one bulb, making it quite possibly the last light bulb you will ever need to buy…


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    • susanc01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Spicer 

      6 years ago from Kentucky

      LOL, feenix, you're right!

    • feenix profile image


      6 years ago

      Hello, Susan,

      This is a very interesting and informative article, and for me, it is quite educational.

      Anyway, all I know is I am really glad that someone invented the light bulb. Hubbing by candlelight would be very inconvenient. ;-)

    • susanc01 profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Spicer 

      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Thank you! I was totally shocked when I read that T.E. didn't invent the light bulb... had to share!

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 

      6 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      this is interesting information!! thanks for the share

    • centp002 profile image


      6 years ago

      This is actually quite interesting. I would recommend for the future to maybe put some of your resources, that way it would be more credible (not that is not already).

      Thanks for the hub.


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