Heinrich Gobel

Heinrich Gobel

German mechanic, inventor and watchmaker
Date of Birth: 20.04.1818
Country: Germany

  1. Biography of Heinrich Goebel
  2. Introduction
  3. Early Life and Education
  4. Professional Life
  5. Later Years and Legacy

Biography of Heinrich Goebel


Heinrich Goebel was a German mechanic, inventor, and clockmaker. His biography contains many unknowns, but he is most famously known for his alleged creation of the first practical incandescent lamp. However, it has never been definitively proven whether Goebel truly invented this device.

Heinrich Gobel

Early Life and Education

Heinrich Goebel was born in Springe, Hanover, Germany. He completed his schooling in 1832 with below-average grades. However, his teacher noted his lively and inventive mind and attributed his academic struggles to a prolonged illness. In 1834, Goebel became an apprentice to a local locksmith, but it is unknown whether he completed his training independently.

Heinrich Gobel

Professional Life

By 1837, Goebel was working as a repairman, and it was during this time that he claimed to have started making lamps as early as 1854, almost a quarter of a century before Thomas Edison. However, this sensational claim was never substantiated. In 1844, Goebel married Sophie Lübke and had a son in 1846 and a daughter in 1848. In 1848, Goebel and his family emigrated to New York, arriving in January 1849.

In New York, Goebel opened his own shop, specializing in jewelry, clocks, and optics. He also supplemented his income by offering paid stargazing sessions using a telescope he had built himself. In May 1865, Goebel obtained a patent for a switch foot for sewing machines, but he was unable to sell the patent.

Later Years and Legacy

In 1881, Goebel became a consultant for the American Electric Light Co, where his mechanical skills were needed while working on lamps. After completing the project, Goebel decided to pursue lamp-making himself. In April 1882, an article was published in the New York Times about a lamp exhibition at Goebel's store, in which he claimed to have been familiar with such lamps for a long time.

In the same year, Goebel obtained two more patents: one for an improved version of a vacuum pump and another for a method of connecting carbon filaments and steel wires in lamps. However, his attempts to sell these patents to Edison were unsuccessful, and his lamp business did not bring him significant profits.

During the 1880s, Goebel attracted the attention of patent officials due to his claims that he may have invented the popular incandescent lamp before Edison, potentially rendering Edison's patents invalid. However, he was unable to prove his claims, as he lacked any patents for his lamps, and the testimony of judges did not convince them. Even a London journalist who visited Goebel's birthplace after his death could not find any evidence supporting his inventions or the existence of the mysterious Professor Münchhausen, who allegedly taught Goebel the basics of electrical engineering.

Goebel retired in the late 1880s, leaving his shop to his son. His wife passed away in 1887, and Goebel himself died from pneumonia on December 4, 1893. He left behind a minimum of eight children born in the United States. Despite the uncertainties surrounding his biography and inventions, Goebel's contributions to the field of lamp manufacturing continue to be a subject of interest and debate.