As America this year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the invention of the electric light bulb, a rather vocal group of Britons is claiming that the honors should really be paid to Sir Joseph Swan, and not Thomas Alva Edison.

Swan beat Edison to the punch by more than eight months, the April 6 issue of Science magazine says, adding that Edison also appears to have cribbed the use of carbon for the lamp's filament from a Scientific American report on Swan's work.

According to Peter L. Kirby, chairman of the British Electric Lamp Centenary Committee, Swan demonstrated his carbon-filament bulb to 700 people in Newcastle upon Tyne on Feb. 3, 1879.

On Oct. 11 of that year, Science reports, Edison tried carbon in his bulb, and on Oct. 21 demonstrated a working model to the public. An Edison lab notebook, discovered in a vault by biographer Robert Conot, confirms that Edison had read of Swan's work before trying the carbon filament.

"so why hasn't Swan received any credit in the past?" the magazine asks. "Edison, says Kirby, had so many firsts to his name that people naturally assumed that he was first with the light bulb. The situation was compounded, he adds, by 'the powerful publicity machinery which Edison himself developed and utilized to assist in the commercial success of his developments.' It adds up, says Kirby, to an unjust prejudice agianst other contenders."

Just the Facts

The first issue of Facts on File, dated Nov. 5, 1940, noted-among other things-that Mrs. Carl Cuttita of New York gave birth Nov. 4 to two girls and a boy and decided to call them Wendy, Louis and Willkie after Wendell Lewis Willkie.

The issue also noted the campaigns of Roosevelt and Willkie, action in the European battleground, and the MVP award to Hank Greenberg, who batted .340.

Facts was the creation of Bernard Person, a Dutch journalist living in New York who longed for a handy compilation of information. In consort with a number of other Dutch immigrants-including historian Hendrik Willem Van Loon-the magazine was begun with three writers on a very small budget.

Two thousand issues later, Facts on File continues to be a weekly cornucopia of information. With an editorial staff of 16 now (and an annual subscription price of $289.50, from 119 West 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019), the currentissue details the Middle East peace accords, notes the orbiting of a manned Soviet spacecraft, reports that Leonardo's "Last Supper" is undergoing restoration, lists the week's most popular books, records and films and-not forgetting its tradition of preserving, trivia-includes this item:

"Princeton University and Rutgers University Jan. 20 agreed to discontinue their their varsity football rivalry after the 1980 game. The agreement was prompted by Princeton officials, who felt that Rutgers' recent moves toward becoming a big-time football power had taken the school out of Princeton's desired class of competition,"

Goodnight, Chet.

Back in the Box

Of all his controversial approaches to life, none was perhaps as controversial as behaviorist B. F. Skinner's baby tender-a controlled chamber he designed to help raise his daughter Deborah and hoped to market as the Heir Conditioner. When Skinner publicly broached the topic in a 1945 Ladies Home Journal article, he was swamped with mail denouncing him as cold and heartless.

It was natural for people "to suppose that were experimenting with our daughter as if she werea rat or pigeon," Skinner writes in the March Psychology Today, coolly that yet endearingly explaining his observations on child rearing. In fact, he makes a strong case for the baby tender, explains in great detail why the unit was never marketed successfully, dispels a number of myths that have sprung up (his daughter is married, living in London and works professionally as an artist) and offers decidedly unusual thoughts on parent-child interactions:

"When a parent stands by until a child urinates before taking it back to crib or playpen, the child may postpone urination because contact with the parent is thus prolonged. If, instead, the child is left alone on the toilet, it may be left much longer than necessary and taken up with a red ring around its bottom. I attached to the toilet seat a music box that began to play as soon as a few drops of moisture struck a strip of paper under the seat [The tune was "The Blue Danube"]. We planned to leave Deborah on the toilet until we heard the music and then come and take her off, but the music proved to be reinforcing; she quickly learned to urinate at once to make the music box play.'"

But Seriously . . .

Silliness Dept.:

TUB-or The Unborn Book, a Magazine of Discovery - offers synopses of book plots authors will write for the publishers. There are about 36 summaries in the latest issue, ranging from "The Sin, Satire and Subtleties of M.V. Martialis," to "JUSTAPUN: The Clown Who Wanted to Become a Knight," to "The High Cool Blues, a short novel about two college professors who travel through the American South looking for undiscovered blues singers, under a grant fom the Ford Foundation," Information and sample copies at $1 each are available from Box 3484, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10017.

The Smudge Review Section includes some appropriately bizarre graphics, capsule reviews of books and some delightful essays, such as John Jacob's The Reviewer as Pimp" in the current issue. For magazine fanatics only, it is $2 a copy, $8 a year from Box 19276, Detroit, Mich. 48219.

Eureka!

Speaking of magazine fanatics, the Spring Coevolution Quarterly ( $12 annually from Box 428, Sausalito, Calif. 94965) devotes 85 pages - more than half the issue - to articles on magazines, an offering that will become an essential part of each succeedng issue. CEQ (and former Whole Earth Catalogue) editor Stuart Brand claims his quarterly thus will become thefirst periodical to routinely review other periodicals. (Permit us to observe that the late Tom Donnelly, who began this column, noted the birth of CEQ here 5 1/2 years ago.)

Green - Thumbing It

With several varieties of daffodils already in full splendor, our thoughts turn to the garden in general (we realize, for instance, that the peas should be in by now) and gardening magazines in particular:

Organic Gardening, for all its philosophical quirks and muddy newsprint images, still manages to convey more useful information on a wider variety of subjects than any other periodical. $9 a year from Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa. 18049.

The Garden, the journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, contains more detailed articles on very specific aspects of gardening. Edited for the serious amateur who already has some knowledge in the field, the monthly magazine is included in the annual £7,50 dues from Vincent Square, London SW1P 2PE, England.

Farmstead includes a number of gardening articles aimed at the absolute beginner, along with some practical advice on homesteading. $7 annually from Box 111, Freedom, Maine 04941.

Harrowsmith is the Canadian equivalent of Farmstead, with better graphic design and four-color spreads. What it lacks in country-flavored wisdom it offsets with solid service features, like the February guide to seed companies. $10 annually from Camden East, Ontario, Canada KOK 1JO.

Garden, published for the members of six national garden societies, is a slick blend of horticultural pomp, sumptuous color photographs and ecological issues. $10 annually from The Garden Society, Botanical Garden, Bronx, N.Y. 10458.

Horticulture, once a showpiece of garden beauty and advice under the guidance of editor Paul Tractman, has slipped substantially under the magazine's new regime, although each issue continues to include and extraordinary portfolio of horticultural photography. $12 annually from 300 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, Mass, 02115.

The New Farm, a new introduction from the editors of Organic Gardening, bridges the gap between the serious amateur gardener and the small-scale truck farmer. Again, the publication emphasizes organic methods, although not to the absolute exclusion of agrichemicals. $10 annually from Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pa. 18049.

The Avant Gardener is a clever biweekly newsletter that reports on new plants, products and gardening processes. $12.50 a year from Box 489, New York, N.Y. 10028.

And Furthermore

As well-timed as "The China Syndrome," the April National Geographic features a comprehensive article on "The Promise and Peril of Nuclear Energy," including a two-page diagram that clearly explains what happens inside those power plants. . .

Historic Preservation, the classiest-looking magazine on the topic, enters its 31st year with an expanded format and frequency, retaining its spectacular four-color design. The bimonthly is included with $15 annual dues in The National Trust for Historic Preservation, 748 Jackson Place NW, Washington, D.C. 20006 . . . Also entering its 31st year is Americas, a monthly OAS publication of interest to aficionados of Latin America. $10 annually from Box 973, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11737. . .After 10 issues, the Metro Consmer is providing good price comparison info for Washingtons. $11 for 12 monthly issues from Box 3456Washingtons. $11 for 12 monthly issues from Box 3456off has been appointed editor of the Columbia Journalism Review succeeding James Boylan, who will return to a full-time teaching position. . .

Switched-on-Bach composer Walter Carlos details the sex-change operation that converted him into Wendy Carlos in the April Playboy interview. . .New York's Cue magazine has a new service-oriented-cum-flashy feature format that results in a vital-looking magazine. . .Meanwhile Newsweek has revamped its format, coming up with an even duller look than the old one. . .Feature (nee Crawdaddy) bites the dust with the May issue. . .Kosher Home has changed its name to Jewish Passover issues is a bigger-than-life color photo of a piece of matzoh. . .TV Guide to start a new, "serious," monthly TV magazine, tentatively titled Panorama, due by the end of the year, in newsmag size. . .Gulf & Western's 64-page ad in the Feb. 5 issue of Time cost $3.8 million, a high for advertising revenue from one ad. . .

And finally, this from Look:

"Pope John Paul II," the April 2 issue reports, "recently had his new status in the world brought home to him in a marvelous way. It seems the pope wanted to call a friend long distance and decided to dial the operator in Rome himself. 'This is the pope, and I would like to put through a call to Switzerland,' the Pontiff told the operator, who shot back, 'Yeah, and I'm the empress of China.' Of late, the pope is putting his calls through the Vatican switchboard." CAPTION: Picture, Sir Joseph Swan, from Science magazine