Did you ever wonder why light bulbs are always associated with ideas? If it is about light in darkness, why not a candle or the sun or a glowfly? Why Edison’s brainchild? The answer spans over a few centuries.

I came across an article on Resilient.Lighting on my search for an explanation. The first recorded use of the word “bright” was to define the brilliance of the sun during the 1100s. Around the 1300s, Chaucer used the same word in his poem Troilus and Criseyde as an adjective, and so it slowly by 1700s through the evolution of language the word found its way into usage to describe people as intelligent.


When Edison invented the light bulb and constantly worked on improving his idea, it wasn’t long before the world found his work bright and hey! the bulbs themselves were as bright as the sun weren’t they?

But it was the early twentieth-century cartoon, Felix the Cat, that cemented the idea of a light bulb as a new idea. Created more than a decade before Mickey Mouse, Felix was the most popular cartoon character of the silent-film era. When Felix was thinking, symbols and letters would sometimes appear over his head, and he would often use them as props: question marks became ladders, and musical notes became vehicles. It was in these symbolic images that we first see the light bulb used to represent a new idea.

 – Nicholas Platt, Digital Media Producer@JigsawTeam

Now, many centuries later, we see evolution of language and perception wondering how two completely unrelated forms became synonymous to each other. Thank literature and a silent film era for this wonderful history lesson.