Process of Manufacturing Carbons

Patent No. 252,386

Inducted 2006

Lewis H. Latimer invented a method for producing a more durable carbon filament, making incandescent lighting practical and affordable for consumers nationwide.

Inventor Bio

Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the son of former slaves. He enlisted in the Union Navy during the Civil war and was a lieutenant in the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. Working as a self-taught draftsman after the war, Latimer made the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell's first patent application for the telephone. He made his most important innovation in electric light technology while working for the United States Electric Lighting Company in the 1880's.

 Latimer  was a self taught electrical engineer and inventor. Many of Latimer's ideas, (including the carbon wire that lights up) were included in the design of the light bulb. Latimer was the only black man of the original 28 people who formed the "Edison Pioneers," a group dedicated to maintaining Edison's ideals. The General Electric Company, for which Lewis Latimer worked, merged with a second firm in 1892. The resulting merger became the present day General Electric Company. Throughout his remarkable life, Mr. Latimer was notable for numerous other accomplishments—being a recognized patent expert, draftsman, author, poet, musician, and Civil War veteran. 

Invention Impact

Latimer's design produced a carbon filament that was more durable and longer lasting than earlier filaments. As a result, incandescent light bulbs become affordable to more consumers. Safer than gas lamps, and less rigid than arc lights, incandescent bulbs transformed the average American home after nightfall.

Despite the social roadblocks a black man in the late nineteenth century, Latimer successfully oversaw the set up of electric lighting in the United States, Canada, and England. After leaving the U.S. Electric Lighting, Latimer worked for Thomas Edison and became a patent investigator and expert witness for the Edison Electric Light Company.





"Add to this the pride of achievement; the desire to rank among the successful souls on earth, and we have the factors which have brought some of the ablest of human beings into the limelight that revealed them to an admiring world, as leaders and examples."

-Lewis Howard Latimer







Lewis Latimer Society & Museum

Non-profit organization

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​Son of Runaway Slave
Edison Pioneer
Patent Specialist
Civil War Veteran​
Civic Leader
Devoted Family Man
Civic Rights Organizer


 Lewis Howard Latimer born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on the 4th of September.

Begin working as an office boy for Issac Wright, a prominent lawyer.

 Joins U.S. Navy.

Hired by the patent lawyer firm Cosby and Gould as an office boy.

Marries Mary Wilson on the 20th of September.

Patents an improvement on train water closets with W.C. Brown.

Executes the drawings for Alexander Graham Bell's patent for the telephone.

Begins working for Hiram Maxim's U.S. Electric Lighting Company; invents a carbon filament to make electric lights longer lasting and more affordable.

Receives a patent arc lamps: travels to Philadelphia, New York and Montreal to supervise the installation of lights and wiring; sets up a light bulb factory in London.

Daughter Emma Jeannette is born; Latimer contrsucts the Latimer lamp while at the Omstead Electrical Company; begins working for Thomas Alva Edison.

Latimer receives patent for Apparatus for cooling and disinfecting on January 12.

Named Edison Electrical Light Company's Chief Draftsmen; publishes publishes Incandescent Electric Lighting, A practical description of the Edison System; daughter Louise Rebecca is born.

Becomes the chief draftsmen at the Board of Patent Control; receives patent foe Locking Rack for hats, coats and umbrellas on the 24th of March.

Becomes a patent consultant at Edwin hammer's firm.

Becomes a charter member of the Edison Pioneers.

"The Poems of Love and Life" is published.

Dies on December 11.

Latimer's home in Flushing N.Y. is moved to a new location in Queens to serve as a museum.

hall of fame/ INventor profile




"We create our future, by well improving present opportunities: however few and small they are."

-Lewis Howard Latimer

"Habit is a powerful means of advancement, and the habit of eternal vigilance and diligence, rarely fails to bring a substantial reward."

-Lewis Howard Latimer




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