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Joseph Swan in his Laboratory | by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
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Joseph Swan in his Laboratory

This portrait of Joseph Swan is from the Swan Collection of Tyne & Wear Museums, held at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne.


Sir Joseph Wilson Swan was a British Physicist, Chemist and Inventor. Swan lived at Underhill, on Kells Lane North in Low Fell, Gateshead. It was here that he conducted most of his experiments in the large conservatory.


His investigations in electro-chemistry led to the construction of a motor electric meter, an electric fire-damp detector, a miners' electric safety lamp. Most importantly, Swan was also a pioneer in photographic procedures such as carbon printing.


It was Swan's demonstration of the light bulb at a lecture in Newcastle upon Tyne on 18 December 1878, before its later development by the American Thomas Edison that he is most famous for. Swan and Edison later collaborated in their work with the incandescent light bulb in 1883, when they founded the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company, otherwise known as 'Ediswan.'


Many items held at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums relating to Joseph Swan offer an amazing insight in to his work as an inventor and his place in the History of Scientific progression. This set offers a small selection from these collections.


This set has been produced in support of the British Science Festival 2013, held in Newcastle upon Tyne. You can find more information on the Festival here


(Copyright) We're happy for you to share these digital images within the spirit of The Commons. Please cite 'Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums' when reusing. Certain restrictions on high quality reproductions and commercial use of the original physical version apply though; if you're unsure please email


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Taken on September 4, 2013