Hey, who’s that? That’s Joseph Swan! Happy Birthday, Joesph Swan!
(It was actually on Halloween, but he’s dead and I wanted everyone to know about him!)
Joseph Swan (Halloween 1828 – May 27, 1914) was one of Edison’s competitors for who really invented the light bulb first. Joseph Swan is an English inventor and worked in the UK – Ol’ Joe here worked a lot in the chemistry of manufacturing in his life, but also had an idea for an electric lamp at the same time as Tommy Edison. Lots of legal brew-ha-ha took place between the two men until a joint company was formed – the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Company, LTD – affectionately referred to as “EdiSwan.” There are many indications that Swan actually invented and developed the light bulb like two decades before Edison, and got a patent for his device a full year before Edison.
Joseph’s original device design had flaws, and didn’t stay lit for very long. His filament had a very low resistance (carbonized paper), and it got set aside for fifteen years or so. Joe came back to it later in life and solved it.
From his beard, you’d think that he did some gold prospecting in Deadwood between the time when he started the lamp and when he came back to it. OH BURN! Yeah! Anyone? Anyone? [high five]
Here’s a picture of the Swan lamp (left) next to the Edison lamp:
One of the coolest things that Joey Swan invented was a process for pushing nitro-cellulose through a really tiny hole, creating conducting fibers. When Edison got wind of this, he wanted to keep his carbonized bamboo filaments, and he did keep his own process until Edison Light was bought by General Electric. GE started using Swan’s cellulose filaments at that point.
So, Joe’s achievments include, but are not limited to:
- the cellulose filament
- inventing a method for drying wet photographic plates
- bromide paper for photography
- apparently beating Edison to the light bulb
- having a huge beard
- developing a vacuum tube with Edison
Happy Belated Birthday, Joseph Swan!