Science, Inventions, Medicine, and Aerospace

Inventions and Patents

Who patented a cost-efficient method for use with electric lights?

Lewis Howard Latimer (1848–1928) patented the first cost-efficient method for producing carbon filaments for electric lights on June 17, 1882. Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, his father, George, was an escaped slave whose capture precipitated the first of the highly publicized fugitive slave trials in 1842, and provoked Frederick Douglass’s first appearance in print. During the Civil War, Lewis Latimer enlisted in the U.S. Navy as soon as he was old enough. He then became an office boy in a patent office and then a patent draftsman. Latimer made drawings for many of Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patents. He also worked for the United States Electric Lighting Company, where he made many significant innovations in the development of electric lighting and supervised the installation of electric light plants in New York and Philadelphia. In 1884 he began to work for the Edison Electric Light Company and entered its legal department in 1890. From 1896 to 1911 he was head draftsman for the Board of Patent Control and later worked as a patent consultant.


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