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Established in 1900 by Thomas Edison, Charles Steinmetz, and Willis R. Whitney, the General Electric Research Laboratory was home to many early scientific discoveries. The first major industrial research facility in the US, it followed the model of many American and European universities in that scientists were free to conduct experiments that may or may not have already demonstrated the potential for immediate profit. The first breakthrough occurred in 1908 when WIlliam Coolidge improved the light bulb by incorporating a different kind of filament that was more durable than previous models.

The General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady was established in 1900. One of its most notable scientific innovations was the tungsten lightbulb.

The General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady was established in 1900. One of its most notable scientific innovations was the tungsten lightbulb.

General Electric was established in 1892 when the Edison Electric Company, which Thomas Edison founded in 1889, merged with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company, which electrical engineers Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston founded in 1882. One of the company's engineers, the aforementioned Charles Steinmetz, proposed the establishment of the laboratory in the late 1800s. He and others in the company realized that in order to outdo competitors in developing new electrical products, the company needed sufficient financial support and more scientifically trained engineers.

When the laboratory opened in 1900 (it was initially located in Steinmetz' backyard), it did something that had largely never been done before: it combined scientific research and industrial development. As such, the lab was the first of its kind in the world. Up to that point, innovations in technology were mostly based on inventing and experimenting, such as what Thomas Edison did in his lab in New Jersey, rather than on systematic scientific research.

The GE laboratory began making strides within a few years. These include the development of the mercury arc rectifier, which converts AC to DC power and was in wide use until the 1960s; the Curtis Turbine, which was at the time the world's most efficient and powerful steam turbine; a new carbon filament used in the the G.E.M (General Electric Metallized) lamp that increased efficient by 25%.; and the tungsten lamp (invented by Coolidge), which surpassed the G.E.M. lamp in light output and efficiency by a wide margin and became the standard light bulb for the next century. The lab's early success was due in large part to the fact that its scientists worked collaboratively and quietly in the pursuit of research and innovation. Over time, G.E. expanded into other areas including aerospace, power generation, manufacturing, and renewable energy. Many of its scientists have secured patents and won awards, including two Nobel prizes (Irving Langmuir, 1932; Ivar Glaever, 1973).

In 1955, the lab moved to a new facility in the nearby suburb of Niskayuna. As of 2024, G.E. operates the Niskayuna research facility and a facility in Bengaluru, India. It did operate facilities in other locations around the world but closed them in 2017 to reduce costs.

"General Electric Research Lab." Edison Tech Center. Accessed February 1, 2024.

Gryta, Thomas & Lublin, Joann S. "GE's new chief starts making cuts, starting with old favorites." Fox Business. October 18, 2017.

Sheire, James. "General Electric Research Laboratory." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. May 15, 1975.

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