Lighting History

- Sep 01, 2017 -


With the discovery of fire, the earliest form of artificial lighting used to illuminate an area were campfires or torches. As early as 400,000 BCE, fire was kindled in the caves of Peking ManPrehistoric people used primitive oil lamps to illuminate surroundings. These lamps were made from naturally occurring materials such as rocks, shells, horns and stones, were filled with grease, and had a fiber wick. Lamps typically used animal or vegetable fats as fuel. Hundreds of these lamps (hollow worked stones) have been found in the Lascaux caves in modern-day France, dating to about 15,000 years ago. Oily animals (birds and fish) were also used as lamps after being threaded with a wick. Fireflies have been used as lighting sources. Candles and glass and pottery lamps were also invented. Chandeliers were an early form of "light fixture".

A major reduction in the cost of lighting occurred with the discovery of whale oil.The use of whale oil declined after Abraham Gesner, a Canadian geologist, first refined kerosene in the 1840s, allowing brighter light to be produced at substantially lower cost. In the 1850s, the price of whale oil dramatically increased (more than doubling from 1848 to 1856) due to shortages of available whales, hastening whale oil's decline.By 1860, there were 33 kerosene plants in the United States, and Americans spent more on gas and kerosene than on whale oil. The final death knell for whale oil was in 1859, when crude oil was discovered and the petroleum industry arose.

Gas lighting was economical enough to power street lights in major cities starting in the early 1800s, and was also used in some commercial buildings and in the homes of wealthy people. The gas mantle boosted the luminosity of utility lighting and of kerosene lanterns. The next major drop in price came about in the 1880s with the introduction of electric lighting in the form of arc lights for large space and street lighting followed on by incandescent light bulb based utilities for indoor and outdoor lighting.

Over time, electric lighting became ubiquitous in developed countries.[5] Segmented sleep patterns disappeared, improved nighttime lighting made more activities possible at night, and more street lights reduced urban crime.


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