The Rise of the Traffic Light


Street Department Equipment Display, Seattle City Auditorium, Traffic Control Devices, 1931. Seattle Municipal Archives/licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

There are multiple contenders when it comes to the question of who invented the traffic light. This episode looks at a few of the moments in traffic light history that got us to where we are today, as well as what made them a necessity in the first place.

Holly's Research:

  • The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Charles E. Duryea and J. Frank Duryea.” Encyclopedia Brittanica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-E-Duryea-and-J-Frank-Duryea
  • Library of Congress. “Who invented the automobile?” Everyday Mysteries. https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/auto.html
  • BBC. “The man who gave us traffic lights. July 22, 2009. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham/content/articles/2009/07/16/john_peake_knight_traffic_lights_feature.shtml
  • History.com Editors. “Automobile History.” History.com. April 26, 2010. https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/automobiles
  • National Safety Council. “Historical Fatality Trends: Car Crash Deaths and Rates.” 2019. https://injuryfacts.nsc.org/motor-vehicle/historical-fatality-trends/deaths-and-rates/
  • McLellan, Dennis. “TV host was behind ‘Red Light, Green Light’ game.” Los Angeles Times. August 15, 2008. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2008-aug-15-me-stulla15-story.html
  • Nelson, Megan Kate. “A Brief History of the Stoplight.” Smithsonian. May 2018. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/brief-history-stoplight-180968734/
  • Crofts, Natalie. “Utah Inventions: The World’s 1st Electric Traffic Light.” KSL.com. August 12, 2015. https://www.ksl.com/article/35930882
  • "How does a traffic light detect that a car has pulled up and is waiting for the light to change?" 1 April 2000.
  • HowStuffWorks.com. <https://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/safety-regulatory-devices/how-does-a-traffic-light-detect-that-a-car-has-pulled-up-and-is-waiting-for-the-light-to-change.htm
  • History.com Editors. “First Electric Traffic Signal Installed.” History. July 28, 2019. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-electric-traffic-signal-installed
  • Badon, Mary. “Red Light, Green Light: The Invention of the Traffic Signal.” Design Observer. June 14, 2018. https://designobserver.com/feature/red-light-green-light--the-invention-of--the-traffic-signal/8627/
  • Biography.com Editors. “Garrett Morgan Biography.” A&E Television Networks. April 2, 2014. https://www.biography.com/inventor/garrett-morgan
  • McShane, Clay. “The Origins and Globalization of Traffic Control Signals.” Journal of Urban History. March 1, 1999. http://sites.tufts.edu/carscultureplace2010/files/2010/09/McShane-traffic-signals-1999.pdf

Topics in this Podcast: 20th century, 19th century, British history, U.S. history, automotive history, inventions