The origins of lighting: From gas lamps to light bulb

October 9, 2015

History of lighting

The ancient Chinese discovered natural gas while mining for salt, and burned it to create light underground. But the type of gas lighting that was to take over from the candle and the oil lamp began in France during the 1790s.

Gaslights were first installed on London's streets in 1807, and by the 1860s most of Britain's towns and cities were lit by gas. Early gas lamps burned dimly. Ceiling-mounted lamps with multiple flame fittings were designed to rival candle-burning chandeliers, previously a preserve of the church and the wealthy, but these "gasoliers" also produced a tremendous heat.

Competition from the early electric lamps in the 1880s led the Austrian chemist Karl Auer to produce an incandescent gas mantle, made of cotton fabric impregnated with thorium and cerium salts, which gave a brighter, whiter light and used less gas. The cotton burned away leaving behind the metal oxides that were heated to glowing point by the burning gas but did not, themselves, ignite. Light was now so dazzling that it became necessary to shield the eyes from it, leading to the first lampshades.

The origins of lighting: From gas lamps to light bulb

Light bulb fun facts

  • When electric lights were first installed in hotels and public places in the early 1900s, notices were needed to remind people not to light them with a match.
  • Electric sockets incorporating on-off switches were introduced in 1888 by the English scientist, engineer and photography buff Sir David Lionel Salomons, whose house was among the first in Britain to have electric lighting.
  • "If gas lamps are to be superseded, it must be by something that will bear harder knocks than a bulb of glass," said theBoy's Book of Science inlate 1800s.
  • It takes six billion, billion electrons to light a 100-watt bulb for one second.

Hope you enjoyed these fun facts.

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