Marvin Pipkin

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Marvin Pipkin (November 18, 1889 – January 7, 1977) was an American chemist and inventor of two processes for inside frosting of incandescent lamp bulbs.

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 [1] 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.[2] In 1947 a silica coating process also invented by Pipkin replaced the etching.[3]

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.[4]

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)


Pipkin biography retrieved 2006 June 27

  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved March 21, 2008.  Marvin Pipkin's induction card retrieved March 21, 2008
  2. ^ General Electric Co. v. Jewell Incandescent Lamp Co., 326 U.S. 242 (1945).
  3. ^ Incandescent Lamps, General Electric Technical Publication TP 110,Nela Park, 1964 page 3
  4. ^ "Marvin Pipkin". Schenectady Museum. Retrieved September 5, 2016. 

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