In 1879 Thomas Alva Edison invented the lightbulb Or so you thought.



Thomas Edison is popularly Known as the inventor of the Lightbulb.
Growing up, we're all taught that Thomas Edison was the inventor of the Lightbulb but it isn't all true.
You might know him better as "the guy that tried 1000 times and failed 999 times". He also has a reputation as the world's greatest inventor.

Now, don't get me wrong, calling Edison the "inventor" in a sense could be considered correct but in the actual meaning of the word "inventor"to design a new process— that isn't true.

In fact, the idea of lightbulbs had existed long before Thomas Edison became an inventor himself. It existed as a theory and then had practical applications.



There are claims that there were over 20 inventors of incandescent lamps before Edison’s version.

In 1802, Humphry Davy invented the first electric light. It was known as the Electric Arc lamp. And while it produced light, the light produced was often short-lived. Davy’s light was too bright for household use but it became the first electric option for streetlights.

Dozens of lightbulb designs followed, by inventors like Warren de la Rue, William Staite, Joseph Swan, amongst others. But it was either the materials employed were too expensive or the light too inefficient. And Then came Edison's design.

The “Wizard of Menlo Park” as he is popularly called, purchased some of his predecessor’s patents, learned from their mistakes. And in 1879, he modified already existing forms of the lightbulb but still it worked for short periods of time. In 1880 Edison, after many trials, discovered the right material for his lightbulb’s filament— carbonized bamboo fiber, which burned longer than any other material yet tested at the time.

In 1882 hotels, theaters, and storefronts were electrically lit. And on the back of his previous inventions like the phonograph, the kinetoscope amongst others, Edison’s reputation grew as the world’s greatest inventor.

And over the years Thomas has had a controversial reputation, as critics have accused him of ingenuity in his inventions. And as Iwan Morus wrote in an article "Edison the dodgy dealer, the media manipulator, the appropriator of other people’s work".

But Edison’s success was partly because he a realized the power of the media. He knew they had the reach to help market and eventually sell his inventions, and newspaper editors recognised that the Edison name could help them sell copies.

However, Edison did not create everything on his own. He didn't build most of his inventions from scratch or out of thin air but off previous existing ideas, using an extensive team of experts achieve his success.
He was not a rich bad guy that stole people's ideas. Rather I consider Edison as a businessman with a good eye.


The Business Lighting experts. History of the Light Bulb. Accessed 12th July, 2022.

Encyclopedia Britannica. If Thomas Edison didn't invent the lightbulb, who did?. Accessed 12th July, 2022.

Reuters Fact Check. Fact Check-Lewis Latimer invented a longer lasting filament for lightbulbs, not the lightbulb itself. Accessed 12th July, 2022.

Ivan Morus. Thomas Edison: visionary genius or fraud. Accessed 12th July, 2022.