Apr 27, 2012
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There’s been a lot of discussion swirling around Ryan Block’s Spark Salon post, focused particularly on Block’s mention of Thomas Edison. He noted that even though Edison is often credited for the invention of the light bulb, it was “essentially an iteration of another light bulb invented a year earlier by a British scientist by the name of Joseph Swan.”
Many readers who responded to the post suggested that Nikola Tesla, a different inventor, is the true genius behind the modern incandescent light bulb. Your responses ranged from passionately promoting Tesla to calling Edison disparaging names. Some of the more notable comments include:
“Poor Tesla – he was a real genius. Edison was a genius too, but not of science. More of a political/business genius. I mean he did convince everyone to give him credit for what others did.” -Margaret Waggoner
“Actually, it was one of the other brilliant inventors of Menlo Park who worked with Edison, Lewis Latimer, who came up with using the filament that made the light bulb last long enough to be feasible.” -Kaitlyn Marshbanks
“Joseph Swan did not invent the incandescent bulb. He invented [an] arc light that used a bulb. Edision spent years trying to [perfect] the light bulb before he sold the first one.” -Debra Baggett Chalkley
“Tesla also invented may other things such as wireless transmission (radio, RF) that predated both Marconi (AM radio) and Armstrong (FM radio) by over six years. Marconi actually used 17 of Tesla's patents unlawfully and he did not litigate against him and could have…” -The Physics Chick
“…Tesla was god. Edison invented the first commercially-successful electric light, the power network to make it useful, and had the legal might to fight off his competitors. Tesla invented the 20th century, and inspired generation after generation of people who actually *create* new, cool, useful things.” -Jason Schwarz
And that’s just a few of the interesting remarks. You can see all of them here.
It was fun reading your responses, and we’re thrilled that Block’s post “sparked” some conversations. But more important is what we learned about you. Spark readers fervent about technology, inventions and… giving credit where credit is due. (Hmm… maybe we should do an episode about patents?)
We also gathered that you innately understand that, as Block said, “[invention is about] constant, incessant iteration…” and that in order to arrive at the “newest” things we love and adore, many behind-the-scenes people (sometimes working for big companies), who sometimes do not get credit, must contribute to perfecting them and drive them to market.
This idea is touched on in a recent ReadWriteWeb article on the history of Digital Video. Coincidentally, it begins by crediting Edison – who, according to Spark readers, is either “the great businessman/inventor” or “thief” – as the inventor of the world’s first film production studio. (Edison haters, tee it up). The post also directs us to a cool infographic from RealNetworks that illustrates how we got to where we are today with digital video. Moreover, it shows that progress is a group effort.