Born near Lakeland, Florida, Pipkin attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering in 1913 and a Master's in 1915. In 1917 Pipkin enlisted in the US Army  and was assigned work on gas masks. His wartime work was at the General Electric Nela Park laboratory in Cleveland where he remained after the war.
In 1925 Pipkin developed a process for etching the inside of a lamp bulb with acid, using a two-step process so that the lamp would not be excessively weakened. He obtained a patent for this invention, which was assigned to General Electric, but in a later suit for infringement, the patent was held invalid by the United States Supreme Court. In 1947 a silica coating process also invented by Pipkin replaced the etching.
His superiors intended the assignment to make a frosted lightbulb as a practical joke. They believed this to be impossible and in an effort to amuse themselves pulled this prank repeatedly on new employees, only to be astonished when Marvin Pipkin succeeded.
Pipkin retired back to Lakeland in 1954, and died of cancer in 1977.
- (U.S. Patent No. 1,687,510) (invalidated in General Electric Co. v. Jewell Incandescent Lamp Co., 326 U.S. 242 (1945))
- (U.S. Patent No. 2,545,896)
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2008. Marvin Pipkin's induction card retrieved March 21, 2008
- General Electric Co. v. Jewell Incandescent Lamp Co., 326 U.S. 242 (1945).
- Incandescent Lamps, General Electric Technical Publication TP 110,Nela Park, 1964 page 3
- "Marvin Pipkin". Schenectady Museum. Retrieved September 5, 2016.