History Of The Light Bulb

  • The first arc lamp is created

    Humphry Davy demonstrated the first incandescent light to the Royal Institute in Great Britain, using a bank of batteries and two charcoal rods. Arc lamps provided many cities with their first electric streetlights.
  • First Constant Electric Light Is Demonstrated

    James Bowman Lindsay demonstrated a constant electric light at a public meeting in Scotland. Some have credited him with being the inventor of the incandescent light bulb.
  • Lighting in a tube

    In the 19th century, two Germans discovered that they could produce light by removing almost all of the air from a long glass tube and passing an electrical current through it. Called Geissler tubes, they became the basis of many lighting technologies including fluorescent lights.
  • Competition for the Incandescent Light Bulb Heats Up

    Inventors all across the world -- including William Sawyer and Albon Man in the U.S. and Joseph Swan in England -- worked on creating an electric incandescent lamp.
  • Edison Begins Working on Incandescent Lights

    In 1878, Edison and his researchers at Menlo Park turned their attention to incandescent lamps. They focused on improving the filament -- first testing carbon, then platinum, before finally returning to a carbon filament.
  • Developing a Whole Lighting System

    Edison focused on the entire lighting system, showing that it was possible to distribute electricity from a centrally located generator with the Holborn Viaduct in London and developing the first commercial power utility in lower Manhattan.
  • Precursor to Fluorescent Lights

    Peter Cooper Hewitt created a blue-green light by passing an electric current through mercury vapor. The lights had few suitable uses because of the color but were one of the precursors to fluorescent lights.
  • Out with the Carbon Filament and in with the Tungsen

    In 1904, incandescent lamps with tungsten filaments appear on the European market. These bulbs lasted longer, were brighter and more efficient than lamps with carbon filaments.
  • Edison Screw Becomes Universal

    Part of Edison's contribution to the light bulb was the socket he developed, which today is called the Edison Screw. By 1908, it was the most commonly used light bulb socket used, and today, it is used for almost all residential lighting applications.
  • Doubling the Efficiency of Incandescents

    Irving Langmuir discovered that filling a light bulb with inert gas like nitrogen instead of vacuuming out the air doubled the light bulb's efficiency.
  • Neon Tubes + Phosphers = Fluorescents

    By the late 1920s and early 1930s, European researchers were doing experiments with neon tubes coated with phosphors. Word of these experiments helped spark fluorescent lamp research in the U.S.
  • Fluorescent Lamps on Display

    In 1939, GE and Westinghouse introduced fluorescent lamps at both the New York World's Fair and the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco.
  • Fluorescents Overtake Incandescents

    By 1951, more light in the U.S. was being produced by linear fluorescent lamps than incandescent -- a change that was led by the need for efficient lighting during World War II.
  • First Light Emitting Diode (LED) Is Invented

    While working for General Electric, Nick Holonyak, Jr., invented the first visible-spectrum LED in the form of red diodes. Pale yellow and green diodes were invented next.
  • Energy is No Longer Cheap

    The 1973 oil crisis marked a turning point in U.S. energy consumption because energy was no longer cheap. Researchers rose to the challenge and began developing fluorescent bulbs for residential use.
  • Fluorescent Bulbs Go Spiral

    In 1976, Edward Hammer at General Electric figured out how to bend the fluorescent tube into a spiral shape, creating the first compact fluorescent light (CFL).
  • LEDs Appear in Consumer Products

    As researchers improved red diodes and their manufacturing, companies began incorporating them into consumer products like calculator displays and indicator lights.
  • First CFL Hits the Market

    Early CFLs hit the market in the mid-1980s and ranged from $25-$35 a bulb.
  • First Blue, Then White LEDs

    The invention of the blue diode in the 1990s quickly led to the discovery of white LEDs. Shortly thereafter, researchers demonstrated white light using red, green and blue LEDs.
  • Energy Department Works to Push LEDs Forward

    In 2000, the Energy Department partnered with private industry to push white LED technology forward by creating a high-efficiency packaged LED device.
  • First Residential LED Bulb Hits the Market (Event occurred in 2002-2008)

    By 2008, there were just a few LED replacement bulbs on the market, and most were 25-40 watt equivalents.
  • Energy Department Launches L Prize Competition

    The L Prize Competition is designed to spur the development of ultra-efficient solid-state lighting products to replace common lighting technologies.
  • Philips Wins L Prize 60-Watt Replacement Category

    After a rigorous review process, the Energy Department announces that Philips' entry in the 60-watt replacement category has met all performance requirements and declares it the winner of that category.
  • 49 Million LED Products Installed

    49 Million LED Products Installed
  • 1. CFLs for as Little as $1.74 2. LED Costs Drop Dramatically

    1. Nearly 30 years after CFLs were first introduced on the market, their costs have dropped to as low as $1.74 a bulb. They also use about 75 percent less energy than incandescents and last about 10 times longer.
    2. Since 2008, the cost of LED bulbs has fallen more than 85 percent, and most recently, a number of retailers announced that they will be selling LEDs at $10 or less.
  • Future of LED Lighting

    In the future, we have the potential for even greater savings by designing LED lighting systems to take full advantage of LED's strengths rather than forcing LEDs into 19th century fixtures.