0 1 2 3 4 5 6
Loading Chapter Title...

Lighting Milestones

An Ancient Oil LampAbove An early oil lamp.

70,000 BCE Hollow rocks or shells or other natural found objects were filled with moss or a similar material that was soaked in animal fat and then ignited.

4500 BC Oil lamps began to appear.

3000 BC Candles were invented. 

A Seventeenth Century Scene with Candles on the Table.

Invented in 3000 bc, candles were still a primary source of light in the Seventeenth Century. (Courtesy Philips)

900 AD Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi, a Persian scholar, invented the kerosene lamp.

1780 Aimé Argand, a Swiss physicist and chemist greatly improved oil lamp efficiency and performance with improved oils and the use of glass chimneys to draft the flame.

1792 William Murdoch, Scotland, began experimenting with gas lighting and probably produced the first gas light in this year.

Illustration of the first Incandescent bulbAbove Heinrich Göbel's original incandescent design was housed in a bottle.

Gaslight Burners

The first gaslight burners were nothing more than narrow apertures at the at the ends of pipes. (Courtesy Philips)

1841 Arc-lighting used as experimental public lighting in Paris.

1854 Heinrich Göbel, Germany, invented an incandescent lamp by passing an electric current through a carbonized bamboo filament that was placed inside of a glass bulb.

1867 A. E. Becquerel, France, coated electric discharge tubes with luminescent materials, a process that was further developed in later fluorescent lamps.

1875 Henry Woodward, Canada, patented an electric light bulb with carbon filament. 

http://www.oldbookillustrations.com/gallery/science/yablochkov-candle.jpg Above The Yablochkov Candle

1876 Pavel Yablochkov, Russia, invented the Yablochkov candle, the first practical carbon arc lamp, for public street lighting in Paris. 

1878 Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, England, patented his incandescent lamp.

1879 Thomas Edison, USA, patented the carbon-thread incandescent lamp. 

1893 Nikola Tesla, USA, used cordless low pressure gas discharge lamps, powered by a high frequency electric field, to light his laboratory. He displayed fluorescent lamps and neon lamps at the World Columbian Exposition. 

1901 Peter Cooper Hewitt, USA, demonstrated the mercury-vapor lamp.  

One of Peter Cooper Hewitt's early Mercury Vapor Lamp

A free-standing Cooper-Hewitt lamp, fitted with cabron-filament lamps in a series to act as a ballast. (Courtesy Philips)

1905 Albert Munsell, USA, developed a practical system of color notation; Albert Einstein explained the quantum energy states of matter and light.

A modern example of Georges Claude's Neon lamp.Above A modern neon lamp.

1909 William Coolidge, USA, developed ductile tungsten wire, making the "modern" incandescent lamp possible.

1911 Georges Claude developed the neon lamp. 

1926 Edmund Germer, Germany, patented the fluorescent lamp.

1930s Richard Kelly, USA, became a pioneer in the foundation of the lighting design profession through his work on the Kimball Art museum and the Seagram Building.

1946 H. Richard Blackwell, USA, developed a system for specifying illuminance criteria, adopted by IESNA in 1958.

1947 Robert McKinley, USA, edited first edition of the "IESNA Handbook".

1950s Stanley McCandless, USA, authored "A Method of Lighting the Stage", the pioneering stage lighting reference.

An example of modern stage lighting

An example of a modern stage light. (Courtesy Philips)

Nick Holonyak Jr. in his workshop. Photo Credit: Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.Above Nick Holonyak Jr. in his workshop. Photo Credit: Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.

1962 Nick Holonyak Jr., USA, developed the first practical visible-spectrum light-emitting diode.

1970 John Flynn, USA, authored "Architectural Lighting Graphics", a pioneering reference for the design of lighting.

1975 The International Association of Lighting Designers was established to provide education and training for professional lighting designers.

1976 James Nuckolls, USA, authored "Interior Lighting for Environmental Designers".

1978 Roscolux Color Filters were introduced providing more than 140 color options for Stage and Studio lighting.

Roscolux Stage Lighting

1981 Introduction of compact fluorescent lamps.

1989 New generation of reliable electronic ballasts for fluorescent lamps begins the large scale retrofit of older technology T12 fixtures to new T8 technology.

1991 Introduction of the first induction (electrodeless) fluorescent lamp.

1992 Signing of the federal Energy Policy Act into law gives added impetus for use of energy saving lighting.

1995 Introduction of electronic T5 fluorescent systems and associated new luminaire designs.

1999 New breakthroughs in LED technology improve efficacy and color (white LEDs). First talk of LEDs potentially replacing traditional general lighting sources.

The World Columbian Exposition, 1893

The Edison Tower of Light, 1893

Described as a display of  "Human Achievement in Material Form, so as the more Effectually to Illustrate the Progress of Mankind in all the Departments of Civilized Life," the World Columbian Exposition  took place in Chicago, Illinois in 1893. New lighting technologies were among the most significant achievements highlighted.

Two rival inventors, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla both presented grandiose displays of lighting. Tesla displayed innovations in both fluorescent and neon lamps while Edison constructed an impressively large tower of incandescent electrical lights dubbed - not surprisingly - the Edison Tower (pictured above.)

An accompanying publication authored by Hubert Howe Bancroft describes the Edison Tower

In the centre of the building, and forming a part of the exhibits of the General Electric company, is the Edison tower, the so-called tower of light, its shaft encircled by thousands of miniature lamps, arranged in unique innumerable pieces of crystal, and at its base a pavilion, surrounded by a circular peristyle, and containing a number of electroliers and globes exhibited by a Pittsburgh company, these also illumined at night by electricity. Thus, when at the silent touch of an unseen hand, the tower from base to apex is arrayed in robes of scintillating and many colored lights, we have here the very incarnation of electric science.