Leading the lighting revolution - GENERAL ELECTRIC (1878-2012)
From Thomas Edison's first commercially viable light bulb to the first X-ray machines, we've continued to innovate what has yet to be imagined.
GE was born from the invention of the world's first affordable incandescent lamp. More than a century later, our Lighting business still brings light to the world, helping advance new technologies such as fluorescents and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), that operate with more efficiency, less cost and less environmental impact than ever before.
The Electric light bulb
In Edison's time, electric lights were already being used, but they were messy, expensive, noisy, too bright, and generally impractical. The electric arc lights could only be used outdoors. People still used gas lights and candles to light their homes and offices. Many inventors across the world were trying to find a better way to make light using electricity.
In 1860, English inventor Sir Joseph Wilson Swan created the first electric light bulb. The inventor's bulb could not really be used yet because the filament burned up too quickly. Swan periodically improved his invention and gave the world's first bulb light demonstration in 1878. Unfortunately for him, the bulb was still not practical because of the short life of the filament.
In 1878, Edison proclaimed that his company would create the first practical light bulb. It would be the invention that would take the most time and experimentation of all his creations. He used Lewis Latimer's carbon filament to make a bulb grow brighter and last longer. Edison's company installed a glass-blowing shed at the lab to make the bulbs. Edison had people send material from all over the world to try to use in the bulb.
That year, Edison and his team of scientists finally found the answer. "The Wizard" received a patent and began work on more devices to make the light bulb usable for the general public. Included with his 300 other inventions relating to the light bulb are generators, cables, switches, fuses, and sockets. His bulbs were first installed on a steamship and in a New York City factory. Edison Electric set up the first power station, a building that generates and controls electricity for an entire area.
Swan's original low-voltage, high-current invention is still used in flashlights and used in automobiles. And Edison is still considered the inventor of the light bulb because he made it useful.
Edison developed more inventions than almost anyone. And besides creating, Edison continued improving his own and other people's inventions throughout his lifetime. Even before he died in 1931, "Edison's Pioneers" was created. This select group of scientists worked to keep Edison's ideas alive.