Out of the Dark – The History of Illumination (1954)


“Out of the Dark: The History of Illumination” traces the development of illumination techniques from the dawn of history until the present time. The film begins by proposing what the night must have been like before the discovery of fire. Once fire dispelled the darkness, the invention of the lamp soon followed. The lamps of primitive man stayed the same for thousands of years. Lighting by torches, candles, and baskets of burning pine chips carried over into the time when monks copied manuscripts by candlelight. In the 1700’s, the houses of the rich were lighted through the use of chandeliers, candles, and tinderboxes. Less wealthy people would gather around a primary candle to work after dark. On streets, urchins would carry lanterns, torches, and candles for pay. As the industrial revolution occurred, factories needed better lighting and they began to burn oil for light. The use of gas to illuminate took two primary forms; gas sent through a pipe could be lit in an enclosed container, and liquid paraffin or kerosene was burned in lamps. Lighting changed little until 1858 when the experiments of Davy and Faraday allowed for the production of light through electric arc lighting. Soon after, Swan and Edison developed light bulbs with carbon filaments. These electric lights needed little maintenance and lighted rooms effectively. The final development in lighting occurred when people realized that they could light gases with electrical discharges, a principle used in fluorescent and neon lighting. This film reminds the audience that artificial lighting is a relatively recent development in human history.

Photographed by A. T. Hinsdale & Leo Rogers
Music by Charles Dakin
Directed by John Durst
Produced by Frank A. Hoare
Merton Park Studios for the British Electrical Development Association
Adapted by Encyclopaedia Britannica Films