Joseph Swan

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Sir Joseph Wilson Swan (31 October 1828 – 27 May 1914) was a British physicist and chemist, most famous for the invention of the incandescent light bulb for which he received the first patent in 1878. His house (in Gateshead, England) was the first in the world to be lit by a lightbulb. In 1881, the Savoy Theatre in the City of Westminister, London was lit by Swan incandescent lightbulbs, which was the first theatre, and the first public building in the world, to be lit entirely by electricity.[1]

In 1904, Swan was knighted by King Edward VII, awarded the Royal Society's Hughes Medal, and was made an honorary member of the Pharmaceutical Society. He had already received the highest decoration in France, the Légion d'honneur, when he visited an international exhibition in Paris in 1881. The exhibition included exhibits of his inventions, and the city was lit with electric light, thanks to Swan's invention.[2]


Early life

Joseph Wilson Swan was born in 1828 at Pallion Hall in Bishopwearmouth (now part of Sunderland, Tyne and Wear). His parents were John and Isabella Swan.[3] 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 the Swedish fashion retailer H&M and can be identified by a line of Victorian-style electric street lamps in front of the store on Grey Street. Swan lived at Underhill, a large house on Kells Lane North, Low Fell, Gateshead, where he conducted most of his experiments in the large conservatory.[4] The house was later converted into a private fee paying, grant aided co-educational grammar school that went by the name of Beaconsfield School.[5] Here, students could still find examples of Swans original electrical fittings.[5]

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