Let There Be Light!

In the 19th century, growing urban centers faced a number of challenges, including lighting. With the realization that electricity could be generated in large quantities by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy, entrepreneurs and inventors turned their attention to the possibilities afforded by electric lights. Most famously, in 1879, Thomas Edison and his team of workers in Menlo Park, New Jersey, invented an electric light bulb that stayed lit for long periods of time, marking the beginning of a second industrial revolution: the electrification of factories, homes, and cities.

A photograph of an early 20th-century light bulb, courtesy of the Physics Department, University of Puget Sound.

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