The Invention Of The Light Bulb
National Survey on inventions shows the invention of the light bulb ranking second

National Survey on inventions shows the invention of the light bulb ranking second

Personal computers are as vital as blowdryers but television and autos outrank both, according to the Invention Index™, a national survey on inventions and inventors sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program, the world's largest program recognizing and rewarding American innovation.

The Index, commissioned in November 1995 to determine American perceptions of inventions, asked more than 1,000 adults, ages 18 and older, which inventions were most important, which inventions they could not live without, and what attributes inventors have. The Lemelson-MIT Program at MIT is an initiative designed to encourage inventing as a career and will award a half-million dollars to an outstanding American inventor on April 11, 1996.

Autos were voted the most important invention (34 percent), that most (63 percent) could not live without. The Invention Index™ found that eight percent of people cannot live without a personal computer — or a blowdryer. Only five percent voted television most important, but 22 percent admitted they couldn't live without it. Some 16 percent thought inventors were "rich."

"Inventions are part of the fabric of American life," said Dr. Lester Thurow, author, professor of Management and Economics at the MIT Sloan School of Management and chair of the Lemelson-MIT Prize Board. "But these results reveal a disconnect in our perception of inventors. Many major U.S. corporations started from an invention. Inventions create jobs -- MIT graduates and faculty inventions created some 452,000 jobs in just California and Massachusetts — yet few respondents consider inventing a route to prosperity. We need to change this perception or face an 'invention deficit' in the future. We hope the Lemelson-MIT Prize Program will help."


The automobile is the most important invention (34 percent), and outranks phones two-to-one and personal computers six-to-one.

Appropriately, the winner of the first Lemelson-MIT Award of $500,000 for outstanding invention and innovation last year was awarded to William Bolander, an automotive engineer with a 12 year track record of invention. Mr. Bolander's innovations with Saturn, Cadillac and General Motors have improved the safety and efficiency of the American automobile.

The light bulb came in second (28 percent) followed by the telephone (17 percent). The PC and aspirin tied for fourth place at 6 percent.


The automobile (63 percent) and the light bulb (54 percent) received the most votes in this category. Telephones came in third with 42 percent, followed by television (22 percent). Aspirin was fifth (19 percent), the microwave oven sixth (13 percent) and personal computers and blowdryers tied at 8 percent. (Note: total equals more than 100% as answers reflect multiple responses.)


More women (20 percent) than men (14 percent) said the telephone was most important, while more men than women (8 percent vs. 4 percent) voted for PCs. However, slightly more women than men (8.1 percent vs. 7 percent) of women said they could not live without PCs.


Inventors were seen as eccentric (45 percent) and over 40 (32 percent). Only 16% called inventors "rich." "What people don't realize is that corporations like Microsoft began with an idea and an invention," notes Thurow. "Inventors drive our economy and help maintain America's status as a world leader."

Last year's co-recipients of the Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award demonstrate the economic impact of invention: William Hewlett and David Packard founded the Hewlett-Packard Company with $538, one product — a resistance-capacity audio oscillator — and two employees (themselves). Hewlett Packard is now a $25 billion corporation employing more than 98,000 worldwide.

About the Lemelson-MIT Program — Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Lemelson-MIT Program was established in 1994 by the late independent inventor Jerome H. Lemelson and his wife, Dorothy. The Program celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual awards including the world's largest for invention, the $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize. The Program encourages young Americans to pursue careers in the fields of science, engineering, technology and entrepreneurship. The Lemelson-MIT Program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation , which supports other invention initiatives at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Hampshire College, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and the University of Nevada, Reno.

For additional light bulb news; light bulb, or to choose from a variety of related products, please select the link above.

Author Notes:

Mark Harris contributes and publishes news editorial to  Find online lightbulbs like Halogen, Projector, Tanning Bed, Fluorescent, Automotive and much more.

© 2003- 2012 All Rights Reserved.

About Us

invented light bulb
Disposable diapers and Post-It Notes stand shoulder to shoulder with the printing press and telescope in the pantheon of great inventions, in to a new...

the history of the light bulb
WHAT: The National Archives will celebrate the 227th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with its traditional Fourth of Jul...