General Electric Demonstration Fluorescent Lamp

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In the late 1920s and early 1930s, reports began reaching GE and Westinghouse of French experiments with neon tubes coated with phosphors. A phosphor is a material that absorbs one type of light and radiates another. American scientist Arthur Compton, a consultant to GE, reported seeing a green French lamp giving 30 lumens per watt in 1934, and his report sparked an intensive, cooperative research program to make a fluorescent lamp. In 1936, this tube using low pressure mercury vapor and a coating of phosphors was quietly demonstrated to the Illuminating Engineering Society and the U.S. Navy.
In 1939, GE and Westinghouse publicly introduced fluorescent lamps at both the New York World's Fair and the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. Other lamp makers like Sylvania and Duro-Test soon followed. The need for efficient lighting in wartime factories brought rapid adoption of fluorescent lighting and by 1951 industry sources reported that more light in the United States was being produced by fluorescent lamps than by incandescent lamps.
Currently not on view
Date made
General Electric Company
Place Made
United States: Ohio, East Cleveland, Nela Park
Physical Description
tungsten (overall material)
glass (overall material)
metal (part material)
overall: 17 3/4 in x 1 in; 45.085 cm x 2.54 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from General Electric Large Lamp Department, thru Alston Rodgers
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Energy & Power
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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