Joe Biden on Thursday said that a black man created the light bulb, ‘not a white guy named Edison’ during a speech while in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Biden made the remark at the Grace Lutheran Church while speaking with community leaders after a private meeting with the family of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old father who was shot seven times in front of his children this month.
He traveled to the embattled city after President Trump made an appearance earlier this week, despite push back from local leaders and the Blake family refusing to meet with him.
In footage shared to social media, Biden addressed instances of racial inequality in institutions, including the education system.
‘I cannot guarantee everything gets solved in four years, but I guarantee you one thing, it will be a whole heck of a lot better,’ said Biden.
‘Why in God’s name don’t we teach history in history classes,’ he questions. ‘A black man invested the light bulb not a white guy named Edison.
‘There’s so much. Did anybody know?’
Thomas Edison, known as the ‘Father of Invention,’ was first credited with creating alight bulb in 1879 and patented it in January 27, 1880.
His creation was the first commercially viable example of the technology in the U.S..
Edison’s official claim to the light bulb came amid similar, competing visions from other inventors who were researching how best to distribute light during that time.
Edison’s original bulb was created using a paper filament, which burnt out quickly.
Black man Lewis Howard Latimer, who later worked with Edison, invented the carbon filament which allowed light bulbs to continuously shine.
The Department of Energy in 2013 wrote: ‘When Edison and his researchers at Menlo Park came onto the lighting scene, they focused on improving the filament — first testing carbon, then platinum, before finally returning to a carbon filament.
‘By October 1879, Edison’s team had produced a light bulb with a carbonized filament of uncoated cotton thread that could last for 14.5 hours.’
The story of the ‘invention’ of the light bulb was far from one of a single breakthrough: the idea that electricity could be used to generate light went back to the 18th century.
Scientists and inventors made attempts at turning it into reality as early as 1800 and with increasing interest throughout the century. The bulbs were not commercially viable – among the problems were that glass was too expensive, forming the vacuum was also too costly, the filament which actually provides the light burned out rapidly, and that technology did not exist to mass produce them.
But a series of incandescent bulb patents were issued in the U.S. and in Britain, while in France, a man better known as the father of modern magic, Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin developed a bulb and lit his country home with them.
The late 1870s were a race to who would perfect a commercially-viable model.
In 1874, a Russian filed a patent for his model, and two Canadians did the same that year too.
In Britain, Joseph Swan had been working on a bulb on and off since 1850, and demonstrated his version late in 1878, receiving a patent in 1880. He installed electric lighting in his own home, and them made it commercially available, with a London theater the first public building in the world to be fully lit by electricity in 1881.
Edison demonstrated his bulb a year later, and got his patent a year later too, for a similar but not identical technology.
But Edison had an advantage over rivals unrelated to technology: he had the financial backing of New York’s richest families.
While working on the bulb in 1878, he established the Edison Electric Light Company. Its backers included J.P. Morgan and several Vanderbilts.
When he demonstrated his bulb in 1879, he was on his way, and a year later the Edison Illuminating Company was founded, and by 1882 he had a power station and distribution system in lower Manhattan – something no other light bulb pioneer could compete with. Swan’s system needed a generator in the building where it was installed; Edison had come up with a complete service.
In 1883 he merged the Edison Company’s British operations with Swan’s, preventing the possibility of litigation over their similar patents.
But in October 1883 a rival pioneer, William Sawyer, succeeded in having the U.S. patent office ruling that Edison’s bulb was based too closely on his version to be Edison’s work.
Six years of court battles followed.
In the meantime Lewis Howard Latimer of Chelsea, Massachusetts, joined Edison’s lab in 1884 after becoming a skilled inventor and draftsman in the post-Civil War era. He had earlier worked for Alexander Graham Bell.
Latimer was the one who made carbon filaments for light bulbs. Because he worked with Edison, the patent was in Edison’s company’s name.
That patent perfected Edison’s bulbs, and gave him another huge commercial advantage over anyone trying to produce a rival version.
In 1889 the patent litigation ended, with Edison’s original patent ruled to be invalid, but the carbon filaments patent – which had become far more important – ruled to be his.
Legally, Edison was therefore not the inventor of the light bulb, but his company was the holder of the crucial patent which perfected it, thanks to Latimer’s work.
Some historians have argued that Edison’s inventions were the result of a team effort which was at the least loose with its use of others’ inventions – and that his cash advantage of wealthy backers played a part too.
Ernest Freeberg, author if The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America, argued that Edison’s success came largely from a team effort.
‘He was in a very competitive race where he borrowed—some said stole—ideas from other inventors who were also working on an incandescent bulb,’ Freeberg told US News.
‘What made him ultimately successful was that he was not a lone inventor, a lone genius, but rather the assembler of the first research and development team at Menlo Park, N.J.’
But on Thursday, Biden continued to implore Wisconsin residents to reevaluate history classes to include a well-rounded interpretation of history.
‘That Black Wall Street in Oklahoma was burned to the ground. [Did] anybody know these things? Because we don’t teach them,’ Biden said.
‘We’ve got to give people facts. Teach them what’s out there,’ he added.
The National Council for Social Studies reported in 2017 that only seven of the 50 states had Black History Month mandates in schools.
The Black Wall Street Massacre, also known as the Tulsa race massacre, was when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and destroyed black businesses in the Greenwood District.
More than 800 people were injured, 36 people died and 35 square blocks of the district were leveled at a time when the area was known as the wealthiest black community in the U.S.
Thousands of black Americans were interned at camps in the days following as white residents claimed the attack was spurred by allegations that a black boy had assaulted a white elevator operator.
During his speech, Biden’s attempts to address racial inequality led to government policies and taxes.
While reportedly referring to a number of audience members who appear restless during is speech, Biden says he’ll stop discussing the extent of his tax policy before ‘they’ll shoot me.’
’19 corporations making a billion dollars a piece don’t pay a single thing in taxes. I don’t want to punish anybody, but everyone should pay their fair share.
‘Not going to lay [it all out] right now because they’ll shoot me,’ Biden says in the footage.
The phrasing came after he met with Jacob Blake Sr. and the Blake family following the death of Jacob Blake.
In the August 23 shooting, police arrived to the 2800 block of 40th Street in Kenosha after Blake’s girlfriend ‘reported that her boyfriend was present and was not supposed to be on the premises’.
Officers tried to subdue him with a taser before opening fire, authorities said.
During an investigation Blake admitted to police that he had a knife and authorities recovered it from the driver’s side floorboard of car after opening fire. No other weapons were found at the scene.
It was speculated that Trump would met with the family on his trip to Kenosha, but Trump declined when the family requested lawyers be involved.
‘I’m not going to play politics. This is my son’s life we’re talking about.’ Jacob Blake Sr. told CNN.