The History of Lighting and Lamps

Around 70,000 BC, the first lamp was invented. Around 70,000 BC, a hollow rock, shell, or other natural object was filled with moss and similar material. Then it was soaked in animal fat and lit. The natural shapes were copied by humans using man-made pottery, alabaster, and metal lamps. Later, wicks were added to regulate the rate of combustion. The Greeks started making terracotta lamps around the 7th century BC to replace their handheld torches. Lampas is the Greek word for the torch.

Oil Lamps

The central burner, an important improvement in lamp design, was developed in the 18th century. A metal tube with an adjustable length was used to regulate the intensity and light intensity. The fuel source was now enclosed in metal. Small glass chimneys were also added to lamps around the same time to protect the flame and regulate the flow of air to it. Ami Argand (a Swiss chemist) is credited for inventing the idea of an oil lamp that has a hollow circular wick and is surrounded by a glass chimney. This was done in 1783.

Lighting Fuels

Olive oil, beeswax, and other similar substances were used as early lighting fuels. These were the most common fuels used until the end of the 18th century. The ancient Chinese discovered natural gas in their skins, which was used to illuminate.

The first use of kerosene, a petroleum derivative, was in 1853 when it was introduced in Germany. Natural gas and coal lamps also became popular. As a lighting fuel, coal gas was first used in 1784.

Gas lights

The first commercial use for gas lighting was made in 1792 by William Murdoch, who used coal gas to light his home in Redruth (Cornwall). Freidrich Winzer (German inventor) was the first to patent coal gas lighting. A “thermolampe” made from gas distilled from wood was also patented in 1799. In 1810, David Melville was granted the first U.S. light patent.

Gaslight was a common feature in European and American cities early in the 19th century. Low-pressure sodium lighting and high-pressure mercury lighting were used in streets. Electric lighting was developed in the 1930s, and it replaced gas lighting in homes.

Electric Arc Lamps

In 1801 Sir Humphrey Davy, England, invented the first electric carbon-arc lamp.

The carbon arc lamp is made by connecting two carbon rods to an electricity source. The other ends of the rods should be spaced at the correct distance so that an electrical current can flow through the “arc” of carbon vaporizing carbon, and creating intense white light.

The current is passed through various types of gas plasma to power arc lamps. A.E. A.E. Low-pressure arc lamps use a large tube of low-pressure gas plasma. They also include neon signs and fluorescent lights.

First Electric Incandescent Lamps

During the 1870s, Sir Joseph Swann of England and Thomas Edison invented the first electric incandescent lamps.

Incandescent light bulbs work this way: electricity flows through the filament inside the bulb. The filament has resistance to electricity. The filament heats up to a high temperature, and then the filament emits light. Every incandescent lamp uses a physical filament.

Thomas A. Edison’s lamp was the first incandescent lamp to be commercially successful (circa 1879). Edison was granted U.S. Patent 223,898 in 1880 for his incandescent lamp. Today, incandescent lamps are still used in homes.


Contrary to popular belief Thomas Alva Edison didn’t “invent” lightbulbs, but rather improved on a 50-year-old design. Henry Woodward, Matthew Evan, and Matthew Evan were the two other inventors who patented incandescent light bulbs before Thomas Edison. According to the National Research Council of Canada

Henry Woodward, a Toronto resident who, along with Matthew Evans, invented a lightbulb in 1875. The two entrepreneurs were unable to raise the funds necessary for the commercialization of their invention. Thomas Edison, an American entrepreneur who had worked on the same idea, purchased the rights to the patent. Edison didn’t have to worry about capital: he was supported by a group of industrial interests that had $50,000 to invest. This was a significant sum in those days. Edison demonstrated the lightbulb in 1879 using a lower current and a smaller carbonized filament. The vacuum inside the globe was improved and the rest, as they say, is history.

It suffices to say that light bulbs have been evolving over time.

First Street Lamps

Charles F. Brush was the first to invent the carbon arc streetlamp in the United States. This invention took place in 1879.

Gas Discharge or Vapor Lamps

American inventor Peter Cooper Hewitt 1901 invented the mercury vapor lamp. This arc lamp used mercury vapor contained in a glass bulb. The precursor to fluorescent lamps was mercury vapor lamps. High-pressure arc lighting uses a small bulb made of high-pressure gas. It includes mercury vapor lamps and high-pressure sodium lamps.

Neon Signs

In 1911, Georges Claude of France invent the neon lamp.

Tungsten Filaments Replace Carbon Filaments

American, Irving Langmuir invented an electric gas-filled tungsten lamp in 1915. This incandescent lamp used tungsten filaments instead of carbon or other metals. It was the first to use this technology. The inefficient and fragile carbon filament lamps of earlier lamps were quickly replaced by tungsten filament lamps.

Fluorescent Lamps

In 1927, Hans Spanner and Friedrich Meyer patented a fluorescent light source. To increase efficiency, fluorescent bulbs have an inside coating that makes them different from mercury vapor. Initially, beryllium had been used to coat the bulbs. However, it was toxic and was eventually replaced by safer fluorescent chemicals.

Halogen Lights

U.S. Patent 2,883,571 was granted in 1959 to Elmer Fridrich, Emmett Wiley, for a tungsten-halogen lamp. This lamp is an improved version of the incandescent lamp. General Electric engineer Fredrick Mby invented a better halogen lamp in 1960. For his tungsten-halogen lamp that fits in a standard light bulb socket, Moby received U.S. Patent 3243,634. General Electric researchers developed improved methods to make tungsten-halogen lamps in the 1970s.

General Electric 1962 patented an arc lamp, the “Multi Vapor Metal Halide” lamp.

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