Electrical/Electronic inventions that changed the world – The Incandescent Light Bulb (1835)

Decade before Thomas Edison filed a patent for his electric lamp, Scotsman James Bowman Lindsey (1799-1862) produced constant electrical light in what became a prototype of the modern light bulb.

Building on Humphry Davy’s successful yet impractical platinum incandescent light, which he developed in 1802, Lindsey managed to create a more useable form of light bulb. Having secured a position as a lecturer at the Watt Institution in Dundee, Scotland, in 1829, Lindsay began experimenting with constant electric light. He demonstrated his invention in 1835 at a public meeting in Dundee.

The light from an incandescent bulb is produced from a filament through which an electrical current is passed. Lindsay claimed that , with his light he could “read a book at a distance of one and a half foot”. This was an improvement on Davy’s light, which did not last as long, was not as bright and used platinum, an expensive material. The public was impressed by Lindsay’s light which produced no odour or smoke, did not explode and could be kept on a table top.

Lindsay went on to give public lectures about his invention over the following years but did little to develop the bulb. Lindsay neither pursued or established a patent for his device, and the modern light bulb as we know it would later be developed by others such as Joseph swan and Thomas Edison. Even so Lindsay’s invention is considered an important event  in the history of lighting and was one of the first prototypes of todays incandescent bulb.


Eur Ing Dr Robert Brown (Robert) is the Executive Director of Fraser George and Associates Limited and is a Consultant and Forensic Engineer in the fields Electrical Electronic and Control Engineering.


Robert is an accomplished professional Expert Witness having prepared and presented many court compliant reports and presented oral evidence within the High Court, Crown Courts and County Courts.


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