Joseph Swan Begins Work on Light Bulb

Swan was born in 1828 at Pallion Hall in Bishopwearmouth (now part of Sunderland), and he served an apprenticeship with a pharmacist there.

He later became a partner in Mawson's, a firm of manufacturing chemists in Newcastle upon Tyne. This company existed as Mawson, Swan and Morgan until 1973, formerly located on Grey Street in Newcastle-upon-Tyne near Grey's Monument. The premises are now owned by Waterstones and can be identified by a line of Victorian-style electric street lamps in front of the store on Grey Street.

In 1850 he began working on a light bulb using carbonized paper filaments in an evacuated glass bulb. By 1860 he was able to demonstrate a working device, and obtained a British patent covering a partial vacuum, carbon filament incandescent lamp. However, the lack of a good vacuum and an adequate electric source resulted in an inefficient bulb with a short lifetime.