A Brief Biography of Thomas Alva Edison
The Edison Lamp
Others before and in the same period with Edison toiled long and hard to produce a
practical incandescent lamp. The idea was not original with him, but it required the Edison genius to solve the
difficult problems involved.
Many persons tried to deprive Edison of the honor of having been the first to perfect
a practical incandescent electric lamp, but they all met with failure. Edison's claim was too genuine to be set aside,
even by the courts which, for one reason or another, might have been inclined to bias.
An English jurist considering the claim of an English inventor, for example, might well be
inclined to rule against Edison, if such a ruling were at all possible. But Lord Justice Fry, sitting in one of Great
Britain's Royal Courts of Justice, made this commentary on the claims of Joseph W. Swan, an English inventor: "Swan could
not do what Edison did…the difference between a carbon rod (as employed by Swan) and a carbon filament (Mr. Edison's method)
was the difference between success and failure.
Mr. Edison used the filament instead of the rod for a definite purpose, and by diminution
of the sectional area made a physical law subserve the end he had in view. The smallness of size, then, was no casual matter,
but was intended to bring about, and did bring about, a result which the rod could never produce, and so converted failure
Edison realized that the invention of a practical lamp alone was not enough to replace gas
as the most-used means of lighting. Therefore, his work on the electric light is even more astonishing, because in addition
to perfecting a commercially practical lamp he also invented a complete generation and distribution system, including
dynamos, conductors, fuses, meters, sockets, and numerous other devices. Of 1,097 United States patents granted to Edison
during his lifetime - by far the greatest number ever granted to one individual - 356 dealt with electric lighting and the
generation and distribution of electricity.