Objects | Inventions and Firsts


Bronze Plaque, Joseph Swan, 1931

Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Tyne and Wear


1800 – 1899

Sir Joseph Wilson Swan was a physicist and chemist whose works have had an incredible impact not only on the lives of the Victorians but also on our lives today.

He was born at Pallion Hall in Sunderland and was an apprentice to Hudson and Osbaldiston’s pharmacy in Sunderland before joining the firm of John Mawson in Newcastle.

Swan became interested in the problem of providing a reliable electric light after seeing a demonstration by W.E. Staite at the Athenaeum in Sunderland. This led to Swan inventing the first practical incandescent electric light bulb.

It is perhaps less well known that he also invented the dry photographic plate, an important innovation in photography, and an early synthetic fibre manufacturing process.

By Richard Archibald Ray (1884 – 1968)

On display at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, near entrance

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