A Bright Idea Will Bring Us Together: Happy Holidays from LMK

Like so many tangled strands of holiday lights, making sense of an unhealthy TMF can bring out the opposite of holiday spirit. Still, LMK’s TMF experts have been working all year on the most challenging TMF problems. They have found obstacles that may at first seem impassable can be overcome when the right technology and the right team are brought together. In fact, there’s no better metaphor for how the right people and technology can change the world for the better than the story of the first holiday lights.

Ever since gaining widespread popularity in Britain in the early 1800s, and long before Thomas Edison had the bright idea of the incandescent bulb, Christmas trees were decorated for the holidays. These early Christmas trees were ornamented with apples, nuts, berries, ribbon, and other handmade decorations, but what really made a Christmas tree sparkle was the addition of candles—an obvious fire hazard in an age where house fires were a very common occurrence. Despite their danger, by the 1870s trees were an American tradition and being sold in the streets of New York City; President Benjamin Harrison placed the first Christmas tree in the White House in the second-floor oval room in 1889.  Of course, as the popularity of Christmas trees grew so too did the number of holiday house fires.

But in 1882 in a townhouse in New Your City, a mustachioed and industrious consultant of Thomas Edison, Edward Hibberd Johnson hand-wired the first set of Christmas lights. His lights, fashioned in a patriotic red, white, and blue, were strung around a tree on a motorized rotating pedestal in his wide front window. The twinkling glow of this first electric lit tree quickly drew a crowd of enchanted passers-by. Despite their warm reception, however, it would take years for the new technology to catch on, becoming a pop-culture icon only after public mistrust of electricity eased and costs of home electrical equipment fell. Even in 1895, when President Grover Cleveland requested that the White House family Christmas tree be illuminated by hundreds of multi-colored electric light bulbs, holiday lights were only a novelty for the wealthy. These early string lights were custom made and could cost as much as two thousand dollars in today’s currency. Finally, in 1903, General Electric began to offer mass-produced lights that were affordable for most and required no knowledge of wiring. Their popularity exploded. Today, more than 150 million light sets are sold each year, with more than 80 million homes participating in the shining festivities.  While house fires remain common around the holidays, their occurrence is at a historical low. New LED technology means the lights are brighter, cheaper, and safer than ever.

But what does the story of holiday lights have to do with the TMF? The story of the invention of holiday lights, first and foremost, illustrates the transformative power of technology. Electric lighting revolutionized more than the just the way we decorate the Christmas tree; electricity transformed society by altering daily life. Those standing outside Edward Hibberd Johnson’s townhouse gazing at the first electric lighted tree might not have been up to date on industrial advances, but surely they would remember the sight of this shining tree forever. Much like electricity changed lives in the early 1900s, digital technology has changed the life science industry in the last few decades, producing paradigm breaking technology like the eTMF. Beyond the transformative power of technology, the story of holiday lights also reminds us that solving challenges, whether in the life science industry or in the world at large, brings people together in unanticipated ways that can produce unexpected and far-reaching joy.

So, as you gather with family and friends around an illuminated tree this holiday season, perhaps you will reflect on the unlikely journey that conveyed the bright idea of a forward-thinking inventor to the halls of the White House and finally to your modern living room. For the LMK family, we will also be contemplating the transformative potential of the next generation of eTMF technology. We look forward to celebrating all the wonderful expected (and unexpected) ways your eTMF could change the world for the better in the years to come.