Heinrich Goebel and his Light Bulb

The Incandescent Light Bulb of Göbel (or Goebel)

It is likely that when we talk light bulb we think Thomas Alva Edison, often attributed as its inventor. Today it is an accepted fact that Heinrich Goebel built functional bulbs three decades earlier. Many others also contributed to the development of a practical device for the production of electrically generated lighting.

Inventor Heinrich Göbel, later Henry Goebel (April 20, 1818 – December 4, 1893), was a precision mechanic born in Springe, Germany. In 1848, he emigrated to New York City and lived there until his death in December 4, 1893. He changed his nationality in 1865.

In 1893, the American public and in Europe took notice of him by reporting that he had developed incandescent light bulbs comparable to those invented by Thomas Alva Edison 25 years earlier (1879). Goebel did not apply for a patent.

In 1893 the Edison Electric Light Co. brought suit for infringing Edison´s patent against three manufacturers of incandescent lamps. The defense of these companies claimed the Edison patent was void because of the same invention of Henry Goebel 25 years earlier, known as the Goebel-Defense.  As there was no convincing proof for the claimed invention of Henry Goebel, judges of four courts raised doubts. Eventually, a research work published in 2007 concluded that the Goebel-Defense was fraudulent.

However, after the death of Henry Goebel, the legend of the practical incandescent light bulb came into being in some countries that Henry Goebel was the true inventor.


The History of the Light Bulb.  Accessed April 20, 2011

The Invention of Light Bulb.  Accessed April 20, 2011.

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