History of Light

The invention of the electric light bulb was announced in the New York Herald on December 21, 1879. In following weeks gas stocks dropped dramatically while stock in the Edison Electric Company soared, eventually hitting $3,500 a share.

125th Anniversary of the Incandescent Lamp
October 21, 2004

  • Lamp used a carbonized filament
  • Glowed for 40 hours
  • Became the foundation for a new industry
  • Patent no. 223,898 issued on January 27, 1880

Thomas Edison

Edison's greatest contribution to the problem of electric light was in filament design. He tried over 6,000 alternative filament materials over two years, and spent $40,000 conducting more than 1,200 experiments.

After testing substances from around the world, Edison found platinum to be effective. However, it was expensive and provided only limited efficiency as a practical filament. Finally, Edison tried carbonized cotton sewing machine thread. On Sunday evening, October 19, 1879, Edison and his assistants powered up his cotton filament and took turns watching it around the clock. More than 40 hours later it was still glowing and Edison knew he had the problem solved.

Light bulbs went on sale in 1880, and while the first full-scale introduction of the Edison lighting system was made in London at Holburn Viaduct in early 1882, the era of general electric illumination via a centralized municipal power source began on September 4, 1882 at the Pearl Street Station, New York City. In response to a reporter's question Edison said simply, "I have accomplished all I promised".


1911Ductile Tungsten LampShock-resistant filament enabled automobile and railroad lighting.
1925Inside Frost LampSofter and more even lighting for homes and offices.
1930Photoflash LampReplaced flash powder used by professional photographers.
1934Mercury Vapor LampFirst high-pressure gaseous discharge lamp-better performance and economy.
1938Fluorescent LampFirst practical low-pressure discharge lamp to provide white light.
1939Sealed Beam HeadlightExcellent beam control which did not grow dim with age.
1945Circline™ FluorescentMaximum amount of fluorescent light in small space.
1949Soft White BulbImproved light dispersion and virtually glare-free.
1959Halogen LampCrisp, pure white light in a small size.
1961Lucalox® High-Pressure Sodium LampsHighest efficacy general lighting source ever.
1962Light Emitting Diode (LED)Invented by GE. Electricity is transformed into light inside a solid crystal of semiconductor material.
1974Watt-Miser® Fluorescent LampFirst reduced-wattage fluorescent.
1975Precise MR16Compact low voltage light source with precise optical control.
1986Biax® FluorescentHighly energy efficient 40-watt fluorescent for home use.
1989Halogen-IR™ Par LampFirst halogen bulb with reflective coating for superior efficiency.
19902D®Unique low profile compact lamp, extending range of fluorescent applications.
1994Genura™ Fluorescent LampThe first practical compact "induction" (electrodeless) fluorescent lamp.
1996ConstantColor® CMH®New hybrid HID technology providing high efficiency and superior performance.
1997Starcoat™Improved fluorescent lamp coating for superior lumen maintenance.
1997Ecolux®Reduced mercury content lamps which pass a TCLP test without sacrificing lamp performance.
1998Starcoat XL® AND Ecolux XL®Premium fluorescent lamps with extended life.
1999Pulsarc®New metal halide systems with significantly improved performance over life.
2000Halogen IR Silv-IR™Vibration resistant halogen product utilizing and exclusive thin film technology.
200024 Volt Halogen FamilyOffers more options for low voltage lamps, increased number of lamps per track run.
2000StayBright® Watt-Miser® Multi-Vapor®New energy saving metal halide retrofit lamp provides improved lumen maintenance over standard lamps.
2000T5 Fluorescent LampSmaller in diameter a fluorescent lamp that provides energy efficient solutions for a variety of applications.
2001T8 Watt-Miser®Maximum energy savings without compromising light output or life performance.
2001Diamond Precise®MR16 low voltage beam optics with the ease and convenience of a medium screw-in base.
2001SportStar™ Multi-Vapor®New improved metal halide lamp has the highest lumen output when operated in any burning position.
200157QBX & 70QBX Biax®57W and 70W plug in fluorescent lamps with the light output of low wattage Metal Halide.
2001T8 SXL™Super long life T8 lamp (36,000hrs) for reducing maintenance costs.
2001Spiral® CFL LampTube geometry reduces overall size to that of comparable standard incandescent lamp.
2001Reveal® Incandescent LampNeodymium glass filters out yellow to produce richer, move vivid colors.
2002350 Watt ConstantColor® CMH® SPXXEnergy saving design in the higher wattage ceramic metal halide family that provides vibrant colors.
2002F32T8 Hi-Lumen Fluorescent LampHigher light output than standard T8 lamps.
2002CFL Reflector LampsEnergy efficient fluorescent lamps with glass reflectors for downlighting and other applications.
2003UltraMax™High efficiency, more adaptable and delivers optimal lamp performance.
200328 Watt T8 Fluorescent LampLowest wattage T8 fluorescent lamp for use with the UltraMax ballast to achieve maximum energy savings.
2003Retail HIR Halogen PAR 38Thin film HIR and silver reflector technologies have 46% higher efficiency than standard halogens.
2003300/320 Watt CMH®First dual wattage ceramic metal halide lamp that can operate on two different ballasts and provide the same high color rendering.