Design history: The story of the lightbulb

As you may have noticed, we love lightbulbs.

The Gifted Few started with us sourcing and selling vintage style filament lightbulbs and while we have since expanded our range of products to include other lighting products, decorative accessories and contemporary homeware, lightbulbs still remain a key part of our business. With that in mind we thought we would treat you to a very brief history (and a little bit of the future) of possibly the most ubiquitous invention of mankind.

Thomas Edison’s name comes up a lot in relation to the lightbulb. While he was not the sole inventor of the incandescent lightbulb, his electric lamp, which was patented in 1879, was arguably the first commercially viable electric light product. Long before this though, scientists and inventors had been looking at how to create an electric light with varying degrees of success.

There are plenty of articles online that go into detail about the many people around the world who were involved in the development of the lightbulb as we know it today – including the English inventor Humphry Davy, who invented the electric arc lamp and of course Thomas Edison’s greatest competitor (or enemy, as some believe) Nikola Tesla, who was known for being a little more avant garde than his counterpart over at General Electric.

We could spend hours waxing lyrical about the whos and whens of the electric lightbulb but for now we particularly like this collection of photo essays from Time magazine, which covers everything from Tungsten filaments that were used on the film sets of classic Hollywood movies to rock stars wearing self-illuminating costumes on stage.

In more recent times we have seen huge leaps forward in lightbulb technology. Where once a bulb might only last a few hundred hours there are now LED bulbs on the market that last upwards of 20,000, saving both money and energy; something we should all be striving for. This is an achievement that Thomas Edison and his fellow electrical pioneers would surely have been proud of and is the way that all light bulbs will go, no doubt consigning the humble tungsten filament to the history books.

In our opinion this will be a sad day indeed (and we will leave the eco debates up to the energy experts), but for now there seems to be no end to the human fascination with the magical glow of electricity conducted through a simple coil of wire. And here at The Gifted Few we say long may this fascination continue.

Do your bulbs go bare in your home or office? Send us a photo – we’d love to see how you show off your filament lightbulbs.

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