Born Jan 31 1881
- Died Aug 16 1957
Incandescent Electric Lamp
Patent Number(s) 1,180,159
Irving Langmuir's work led to two major inventions: the high-vacuum electron tube and the gas-filled incandescent lamp.
The incandescent electric lamp has a low manufacturing cost, uses no external equipment, and can work on either alternating or direct current. These three features make incandescent electric lamps especially attractive for household and commercial lighting, as well as for some car headlights and decorative or advertising lighting.
Incandescent electric lamps and lights bulbs are slowly being replaced with more energy efficient forms such as compact fluorescent bulbs and LEDs.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Langmuir was educated in the public schools of New York and Paris, France. He earned a B.S. from the Columbia University School of Mines and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Gottingen in Germany, where he studied under Nobel laureate Walther Nernst.
His first professional position was as an instructor of chemistry at Stevens Institute in Hoboken, New Jersey, from 1906 to 1909. From there he moved to the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, New York. What began as a summer job blossomed into a career with the company that lasted the rest of his life.
While at G.E., Langmuir received 63 patents and was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, as well as numerous other honors. His initial research at General Electric involved low-pressure chemical reactions and the study of the emission of electrons by hot filaments in a vacuum. This work led directly to the invention of the high-vacuum electron tube in 1912 and the gas-filled incandescent lamp in 1913.
Langmuir was responsible for many basic scientific discoveries which played a fundamental role in the development of commercial electrical products as well as in military and general scientific areas. His contributions to atomic theory and the understanding of atomic structure threw light upon the meaning of isotopes. His experiments with oil films on water resulted in the development of two-dimensional or surface chemistry.
In World War II, Langmuir was one of the key advisers in the national defense and wartime scientific research programs, contributing to the development of radar for use by the British and United States armed forces.