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Thomas Alva Edison with his light bulb invention



The electrical power generation industry began when light bulbs and other devices that needed reliable energy supplies were invented. Telephones and televisions all needed electricity.  It is painful to cast aspersions on the reputation of one of America's heroes, but Edison, who patented his bulb in 1879, improved on a design that British inventor Joseph Swan had patented 10 years earlier. Improvement patents, are however, still inventive steps and legitimate development.





Thomas Alva Edison is held to be the inventor of the electric light bulb, though Sir Joseph Wilson Swan's, patent predated Edison's US patent, in England. Eventually, the two men became partners, with the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Co. (Ediswan Lighting Company). The High Court in London ordering the combatants to work together.


Having invented the light bulb, Edison needed to provide electricity to key areas, to promote the sale of his lighting apparatus. Useless of course, unless energy was available to power his bulbs, with the need for switches and other electrical components, that he could supply and recover his investment, and even turn a profit.








SWITCHES & BULBS - Where would we be without electric lighting. A battle royal ensued in the law courts and Thomas Edison and Joseph Swan slogged it out in the London High Court, ending with the combatants working together as the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Co. ELECTRIC BAKERY - The earliest surviving generating station, dating from C. 1900, with battery based load levelling as the core technology, coupled to a 48 volt DC generator, is in the little village of Herstmonceux, Sussex.






England's Joseph W. Swan, was a chemist, who experimented in the 1850s and 60s with carbon filaments. His early efforts failed however, because the vacuum pumps of those years could not remove enough air from the lamps. By the mid-1870s better pumps became available, and Swan returned to his experiments.

By late 1878, Swan reported success to the Newcastle Chemical Society and in February 1879 demonstrated a working lamp in a lecture in Newcastle. His lamps contained the major elements seen in Edison's lamps that October: an enclosed glass bulb from which all air had been removed, platinum lead wires, and a light-emitting element made from carbon. Why then is Edison generally credited (outside Britain) with inventing the light bulb?

Like other early inventors, Swan used a carbon rod with low electrical resistance in his lamp. Due to the relationship between resistance and current, a low resistance element required lots of current in order to become hot and glow. This meant that the conductors bringing electricity to the lamp would have to be relatively short (or impossibly thick), acceptable for an experiment or demonstration, but not for a commercial electrical system.

Made from an arc-lamp element, Swan's carbon rod gave off light but did not last very long. Gasses trapped in the rod were released when the lamp was activated, and a dark deposit of soot quickly built up on the inner surface of the glass. So while Swan's lamp worked well enough for him in a demonstration, it was impractical in actual use.

Edison realized that a very thin "filament" with high electrical resistance would make a lamp practical. High resistance meant only a little current would be required to make the filament glow and allow much longer copper lines of modest size to be used. Edison's Bristol-board lamps of December 1879 lasted about 150 hours, and his bamboo lamps of early 1880 lasted 600 hours.

It is for this realization about high resistance, and for his conception of the lamp as only one part of an integrated system, that Edison is generally credited with inventing the first practical incandescent lamp.

Swan did not lose out entirely however. While it appears that he never sent the letter that he wrote to Edison (cited above), his patents were strong enough to win in British courts. After another lamp maker lost a patent suit to Swan, the Edison interests decided to negotiate rather than risk losing a suit of their own. 




Today, light bulbs are considered to be wasteful of energy, creating a lot of heat for the light output. They are being replaced by LEDs, as part of the fight against climate change, and simply to cut the cost of lighting.





Electricity grids are key to renewable energy distribution



The electrical power generation industry began when light bulbs and other devices that needed reliable energy supplies were invented. Telephones and televisions all needed electricity.







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