Light Bulb Moments in Light Bulb History: The Incandescent Lamp

This guy’s name is Humphry. He’s about 24 years old. A chemist. And, by the looks of him, pretty content with his accomplishments and station in life. He’s the boy wonder credited with creating the first incandescent light. He seems to be thinking, “I’m just a genius. No biggie.” It’s around 1802. England.


According to Edison Tech Center, Humphry Davy achieved a glow by sending electrical current through a strip of platinum. Davy’s glowing platinum ignited a string of inventions that led to the incandescent light bulb, in which electric current passes through a material that glows before reaching a melting point. Tungsten is the classic filament because it can reach up to almost 6,200 degrees fahrenheit before melting! Dang!

The incandescent light bulb is our homie. It has been with us, creating warm, flattering light, rendering colors beautifully, and making human life at least 45% more magical for almost 200 years. Even though 90% of its energy is emitted as heat, making the standard tungsten light bulb almost inexcusably inefficient, we’ll always have love for the incandescent light bulb and its flattering light.

Many brilliant minds have contributed to the incandescent lamps we have today, but Humphry Davy stands out to me for his ingenious invention that led to “the most profound invention since man-made fire.”

Plus, he had a double first name, wrote a seminal text on fly fishing, and advocated for having a gaseously good time. From Wikipedia:

Davy revelled in his public status, as his lectures gathered many spectators. He became well known due to his experiments with the physiological action of some gases, including laughing gas (nitrous oxide), once stating that its properties bestowed all of the benefits of alcohol but was devoid of its flaws.

What or WHO will be next in the history of light bulbs? Here’s a hint:

vintage fluorescent


Tom Sowders

After majoring in creative writing at NC State, I worked in the home remodeling industry. Then, I attended graduate school for a really long time and gained experience as a writer and writing instructor. I live in the Raleigh-Durham area with my wife and baby boy, and you can find me around the Triangle anywhere there's good music and/or NC-style BBQ.

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