LEWIS H. LATIMER
Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, as
a young man, Lewis Latimer learned mechanical drawing while working for a Boston patent
office. In 1880, Hiram Maxim of the U.S. Electric Lighting Company needed to help
develop a commercially viable electric lamp hired him. In 1882, Latimer invented a
device for efficiently manufacturing the carbon filaments used in electric lamps and
shared a patent for the "Maxim electric lamp," He also patented a threaded
wooden socket for light bulbs and supervised the installation of electric streetlights in
New York City, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London.
In 1884, Latimer became an engineer at
the Edison Electric Light Company where he had the distinction of being the only African
American member of "Edison's Pioneers" (Thomas Edison's team of
inventors). While working for Edison, Latimer wrote "Incandescent Electric
Lighting," the first engineering handbook on lighting systems. Although today's
incandescent light bulbs use filaments made of tungsten rather than carbon, Latimer's work
helped to make possible the widespread use of electric lights.
Revised: July 18, 2013.