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Lighting Developments Through The Decades

Although it may seem as if our fancy LED light bulbs have been around forever, lighting is an incredible invention which has seen many developments over time. From the Egyptians to Edison, numerous great minds have had a ‘bright idea’ which led to the light bulbs of our current day.

Here, we shed some light on the lighting developments through the decades, and where it could be heading!

Candles – 3000 BC: Although it is impossible to pin down exactly when the first flame flickered, the Egyptians were the first civilisation to make practical use of the new fire discovery. In around 3000 BC, they developed candles by using reeds as a wick, soaked in animal fat. However, many argue that the Romans created the first ‘dipped’ candle, dipping papyrus in melted tallow or beeswax.

Oil burner – 1700s: Oil burners have been used for thousands of years in the form of ancient clay and terracotta models but the first oil lamp as we know it was invented in the 1700s.  Swiss physicist and chemist, Aimé Argand invented the smokeless oil lamp, otherwise known as the ‘Argand’ lamp in 1782. It was a sophisticated model compared to its traditional counterparts.

Edison light bulb – 1800s: Similar to the oil lamp, many inventors were finding ways to create electric light long before Thomas Edison, yet he goes down in history due to producing the first commercially available light bulb in 1879, helping to illuminate homes for years to come. The iconic incandescent style is still the one of the most popular style choices of today!

Car headlamp bulb – 1920s Up until the 1920s, cars used carbide and oil lamps as tail and headlamps. However, soon cars were fitted with Dynamos which made headlamps, capable of emitting low and high beams, commonplace on automobiles from then on.

Halogen light bulb – 1950s While many others before them had tried to build halogen lamps, Elmer Fridrich and Emmet Wiley were the first to develop a successful halogen lamp in 1955. This original design was improved upon during the 60s to make it cheaper, as soon halogen lamps were commercially available.

Compact fluorescent light bulb – 1990s:  Peter Hewitt Cooper was awarded a patent in 1901 for his low-pressure mercury vapour lamp (fluorescent light). But this technology was not utilised until researchers started to look for ways to combat the energy inefficiency of incandescent light bulbs. Compact Fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs were released to market in the 1990s. They offered a crisp, white light, using far less energy than their incandescent counterparts. CFL lamps are still widely used today.

LED light bulb - 2010:  LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology was first invented in the 1960s, yet it created a red, yellow and green light – unsuitable for widespread domestic use. After the Energy Department partnered with a private industry to drive white LED technology forward in 2000, by 2010 white, practical and energy efficient LED light bulbs were ready for consumers, only performing better, becoming cheaper and more reliable with further developments.

Smart bulbs – 2015 and beyond: LED light bulbs are quickly becoming ‘smart’. Rather than using a traditional switch, these clever light bulbs can connect to a smartphone app or a central ‘smart home’ system to revolutionize the way homes are illuminated for years to come. With a swipe of a screen, smart light bulbs can be turned off or on, dimmed or even change colour. As well as instantly creating atmosphere, it holds great potential for improving the energy efficiency of homes even further. Smart light bulbs are in their early days of adoption, but soon they could be in many houses across the globe!

Created by Rebecca Appleton on 9th May, 2017


Rebecca Appleton

Rebecca Appleton

Qualified online journalist, specialising in the home improvements and energy saving sectors