Thomas Edison is a well-known inventor. But among other inventors of his day, he was probably best known for the large number of patents he owned – 1,093, to be exact. Edison is known for being the creator of not only innovative technologies, but also myths surrounding it.
He often boasted that he could only sleep three hours a night and never received formal education, two over-stated statements. Arguably, the most well-known myth surrounding Edison is that he invented the electric bulb.
In 1800, the Italian inventor Alessandro Volta developed the vault cell, a machine made of alternating copper and zinc disks interspersed with cardboard soaked in salt water. The vane battery was conducting electricity when copper wire was attached to either end and the wire was beginning to shine.
In 1802, Humphry Davy found a way to connect voltage cells and carbon electrodes, producing the first electric lamp. Davy’s lamp was imperfect: it was too bright and turned off quickly.
Years later, in 1840, Warren de la Rue developed a more efficient light bulb using coiled platinum, but its price made it expensive. English chemist Joseph Swan improved the design in 1860 by using much cheaper carbonized paper filaments instead of platinum coils.
In 1879, Edison finally entered the melee by replacing the filament of the Swan bulb with a filament of high electrical resistance. The Edison light bulb was the most efficient and economical at the time, but it was certainly not the first to come up with its original idea. The bulbs that we rely on today are the result of a massive collective effort that has lasted for many years. They were not the work of a man or a woman.