Joel Spira, who brought the light dimmer switch to households across the nation and transformed his Lutron Electronics Company into a leading manufacturer of lighting controls, died of natural causes on Wednesday. He was 88.

The Coopersburg, Pennsylvania-based company, which confirmed the death, said he had been working with company engineers on a new product the night before he died.

Spira, who patented an electronic light dimming device, developed the company into a worldwide distributor of motorized shades and lighting and temperature controls. He led the company for 54 years and most recently was chairman and director of research.

The Morning Call said Lutron currently employs 1,100 people in the Lehigh Valley.

"Someday I'll be gone," he told the newspaper in 2012. "But dimmers will be with us forever."

The privately held company said Spira is credited with more than 300 design and utility patents in the United States. The company now holds 2,700 patents across the globe.

A company history posted on its website said that by 1959, Spira had developed a solid-state dimmer for incandescent lighting that was practical for home use. He and his wife, Ruth, incorporated Lutron two years later, and set out to mass-market the product.

"His innovations not only save energy, but also make people's lives better by creating residential and commercial spaces that are more comfortable and more pleasant," Lutron president Michael Pessina said in a statement.

Spira graduated with a bachelor's degree in physics from Purdue University in 1948.