Edison's filament lamp (left) shown with bulb, c 1880.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Made by the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931), this lamp had a single loop of carbon which glowed when a current flowed through it. The glas bulb contained a partial vacuum; there was so little oxygen in the bulb that the filament could get very hot without catching fire. This lamp was presented to the Science Museum by Edison.