The modern world is an electrified world. The light bulb, in particular, profoundly changed human existence by illuminating the night and making it hospitable to a wide range of human activity. The electric light (left), one of the everyday conveniences that most affects our lives, was invented in 1879 by Thomas Alva Edison (right). That was just over 130 years ago. Think how much the world has changed since then. Edison was neither the first nor the only person trying to invent an incandescent light bulb but he gets the credit for making the first practical model.
What Edison did is figure out what substance could be used in an electric lamp in which a filament is heated to incandescence by an electric current. Edison was the entrepreneur who created the first practical prototype. Today's incandescent light bulbs use filaments made of tungsten rather than carbon of the 1880's.
Edison was born February 11, 1847 in Milan, Ohio and died October 18, 1931 in West Orange, New Jersey and, before even starting on the light bulb project, had already gained an international reputation for his work on the phonograph. He was a household name and a superstar dubbed "The Wizard of Menlo Park" before he invented the lightbulb.
In his 20s, Edison decided he would spend the rest of his life inventing things so he set up a lab to do just that and pretty much worked around the clock for the rest of his life investigating any number of possibilities. Next to Leonardo da Vinci, it is hard to think of anyone who devoted so much of their life to investigating how things work and designing improvements.