Apr 15, 2021
A history of lighting in free verse

By Mark Lien

Audio: Listen to this article, download for iPhone or Android.

Progressions: Beyond Sunset

HERE WE ARE AT SUNSET

The closing of a day
When electricity was new
And streetlights broke the night
Then followed into buildings
Dark corners came in view
We accepted this gift, this blessing
Until it wasn’t new
And generations passed
With the sense of something great
And lighting was expected
Grew common and neglected

NOW WE BEAR THE TORCHES

Lit with LEDs and brighter
Than the previous sources
A feeling quite amorphous
Passed to a few with eyes to see
Who learned from those who came before
That the lighting means much more
It sheds light upon our core
As we flick lights on with fingers
Or words that activate devices
To do our work or vices
In the night or in the day
Lights bring us books at all times
And mobility to travel
To see what few have seen
At any time unravel
Mysteries unseen
Deep in caverns
Or dark corners
Light makes it feel more clean
It purifies and sanctifies
Light reveals, dark conceals

ORIGINS ARE IMPORTANT

When did electric light begin?
How will the future change it?
How do we fit in?
First the sun and some wick sources
Led to gas for lighting
For streets, at work and homes
Flames were dim and risky
Then Humphrey Davy
Helped miners see safely
With electric lights and batteries
In the early nineteenth century
And inventors with special sight
Edison and Swan in 1879
Patented carbon incandescents
They had much more in mind
They improved upon successes
We still see their efforts shine
Edison needed power
He built a plant in Manhattan
To illuminate the streets
But progress is never complete
In 1893 Tesla’s lights were wire free
Eight years later came mercury
And the start of HID

LIGHTING COMMUNITIES WERE FORMING

Electric lighting became important
Just six years into the century
The IES was born of need
Metal halide arrived six years later
In 1913 the CIE came to be
And 1920 for sodium vapor
1926 brought fluorescent tubes
And higher light levels ensued
In 1927 Oleg Losev saw a semiconductor
Junction glowing green
The first LED that anyone had seen
Incandescent sources kept improving
They glowed across the globe
The halogen lamp in ’53
The laser seven years later
Nick Holonyak was in his lab in ’62
His LED in red was new

THE BEATLES WERE BEGINNING

To play the Hamburg clubs
And the pace of changes coming
Turned a walking pace to running
And the world of lighting
Was about to change the world
The major companies were fighting
For incremental innovation
For decades in duration
Then came the revolution
The next lighting evolution

YELLOW AND VIOLET LEDS BLOOMED IN ’72

Nine years later the CFL was new
In ’87 the first useful OLED
Sulfur and induction flared briefly
Shuji Nakamura made a blue LED in ’93
Later adding phosphor for white
He earned a Nobel Prize
He sparked a revolution and conversion
That continues in our lives
LED luminaires became viable in 2005
As replacement lamps were refined
In 2011 incandescent was surpassed
The LED replaced the A-lamp at last
It improved on Edison’s invention
And showed that solid state
Was worth the wait
Electronics now drove progress
Faster toward the future
Companies adapted or were defeated
The competition got heated
Efficacy advanced and chips were lasting longer
Colors were improved and it all was getting smaller
Then prices hit the bottom
And the market was appeased
They accepted pricing and performance
And then most research ceased

AS LEDS, UBIQUITOUS AND TAKEN FOR GRANTED

Grew common and eyes turned
To analyzing effects on health
And how little we’ve learned
And how light grows plants for food
And toward new ways to deliver light
How, when and where we want it
Inside or out, day and night

CONVERGING, INTEGRATING

Moving to some end
That may look very different
Than it seemed when we began
Motions picked up pace
And change is underfoot
But we may not recognize it
Until it’s well underway
And it’s poised for us to see it
Past the closing of this day
Beyond sunset

Contributor(s)

Mark Lien

Mark Lien, LC, CLEP, CLMC, HBDP, LEED AP

Mark has designed interior and exterior lighting systems for a wide range of applications including residential, municipal, retail, healthcare and both conventional and nuclear power plants. Over several decades he has provided lighting education while working, presenting and... More info »