Edison’s incandescent lamp (1879)

The history of electricity

Before Thomas Edison, electric lighting was an unusual phenomenon rather than the ubiquitous light source we know today. Edison brought this light with his incandescent lamp.

The lamp used the carbon filament bulb system: electricity passes from the conducting wire to a carbon filament in a vacuum, which heats up owing to the Joule effect – heat released from an electrical resistor. The radiation gave a white light far more efficient than the gaslight of the time. The model was later improved by replacing the carbon filament with tungsten, which has a higher melting point. The bulbs were then filled with a certain type of gas – the so-called noble gas – which slowed the burning of the tungsten more effectively than a vacuum.

Subsequently the incandescent lamp gave way to fluorescent tubes, which use the electric arc, and then to LEDs, the electronic light sources used everywhere today.

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