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Instruments of Science and Technology / An exceedingly rare Joseph Swan carbon-rod-filament incandescent lamp English, circa 1877,

An exceedingly rare Joseph Swan carbon-rod-filament incandescent lamp  English,  circa 1877, image 1
An exceedingly rare Joseph Swan carbon-rod-filament incandescent lamp  English,  circa 1877, image 2
Thumbnail of An exceedingly rare Joseph Swan carbon-rod-filament incandescent lamp  English,  circa 1877, image 1
Thumbnail of An exceedingly rare Joseph Swan carbon-rod-filament incandescent lamp  English,  circa 1877, image 2
Lot 81
An exceedingly rare Joseph Swan carbon-rod-filament incandescent lamp
English, circa 1877,
19 September 2018, 13:00 BST
London, Knightsbridge

Sold for £9,375 inc. premium

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An exceedingly rare Joseph Swan carbon-rod-filament incandescent lamp English, circa 1877,

the glass vacuum tube mounted horizontally in metal brackets, on blue velvet base within bevel glazed mahogany display case with brass plaque at the front lettered THE FIRST INCANDESCENT ELECTRIC LAMP. This was made in 1877 (circa) by Sir (then Mr) JOSEPH WILSON SWAN, the tube 5in (13cm) long, the case 10 1/2in (26.5cm) wide

Footnotes

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914), born in Pallion, Sunderland in 1829, was an inquisitive young man undertaking apprenticeships with chemists and local industrial businesses. In 1850 Swan became fascinated with the idea of creating light using electricity and began to develop a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments inside a glass bulb. By 1860 he had created a working incandescent light bulb and obtained a patent for it. This light bulb, although extraordinary for its time, was of poor quality and had a short lifespan so Swan set about making improvements to his original bulb and with the use of carbonized thread and a better vacuum he was able to produce a much-improved version in 1875.

Swan first publicly demonstrated his incandescent light bulb during his popular lecture series in 1878-1879 at the Newcastle upon Tyne Chemical Society, however there were still improvements to be made. Another patent was obtained in 1880 for a more sophisticated filament in the bulb. In this same year Swan formed 'The Swan Electric Light Company Ltd' to manufacture his incandescent light bulbs for both private and commercial use. The first home in the world to have electricity was Swan's own house in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear.

Swan was commissioned to install his revolutionary bulbs at the Savoy Theatre in London, making it the first public building ever to be lit entirely by electricity using a total of 1,200 bulbs. Theatre goers rejoiced as the heat and odour caused by, now primitive, gaslight would often make the audience feel dizzy and unwell due to a lack of oxygen inside theatres.

Whilst Swan worked to illuminate England, Thomas Edison was attempting the same feat across the ocean in America. Edison tinkered with Swan's original version of the incandescent lamp and Swan allowed him to hold the patent for manufacturing and distribution of the light in the United States whilst he held the same in Britain. In 1883 Swan and Edison decided to merge their work to form the 'Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company', often referred to as Ediswan. The company focused on producing cellulose filament bulbs which Swan had created in 1881.

Sir Joseph Swan also made important contributions to the development of photograph by inventing a workable process of carbon printing that allowed photographic prints to be made. In recognition of his many and varied achievements Swan was elected to the Royal Society in 1984. In 1904 he was presented with the Royal Society's Hughes Medal and was knighted. He died 10 years later in Surrey at the age of 85.

Exhibited: The Royal Society, Carlton House

Additional information