Electric Lighting Timeline

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1801 - Union of Great Britain and IrelandElectric lighting dates back to 1801 when an English inventor called Sir Humphrey Davy (famous for the safety lights used in mines) produced an electric carbon arc lamp. Whilst revolutionary it only lasted a few hours and its complexity meant it had limited success.



Klondike Gold rush beginsIn 1870 both Sir Joseph Swan in England and Thomas Edison in the USA commercialised the electric incandescent lamp and in 1879 the first patent was awarded to Thomas Edison. Whilst the materials and manufacturing techniques have been updated these are essentially the same bulbs in use today.



First Nobel prize ceremonyIn 1901 American; Peter Cooper Hewitt patented the mercury vapour lamp. This was an arc lamp, similar to that used by Sir Humphrey, using vaporised mercury and enclosed in a glass bulb. These bulbs did not enjoy large commercial success but they were the forerunner of today’s fluorescent and HID bulbs.



US Coastguard formedAmerican; Irving Langmuir started using tungsten filaments for electric incandescent lamps instead of carbon or other metals. This became the international standard and remains so to this day.



First trans-atlantic radio telephone callAmidst many legal battles Fredrich Meyer, Hans Spanner and Edmund Germer patented a fluorescent lamp by coating the inside of the mercury vapour lamp with a phosphor, creating one of the most common lighting forms today.



First CERN particle accelerator startedThe General Electric company developed and improved the halogen lamp during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Using a tungsten filament in a halogen gas improved on the standard incandescent bulb.



First mobile phone call made in NYCIn this year the oil crisis gave Edward E. Hammer, an engineer at General Electric, the opportunity to develop fluorescent technology that would directly replace incandescent light bulbs. This compact fluorescent Light (CFL) proved too expensive to commercialise for GE at this time.



MilenniumLight emitting diodes (LEDs) have been used for decades as indication lamps and other ancillary uses. During this decade a number of international corporations developed high powered LED elements that produce sufficient light to compete with existing lighting types.



ISS surpasses the record for the longest human occupation in spaceThe low cost and wide availability of CFL and fluorescent lights means they will continue to be a popular choice but the improved savings and flexibility of LED lighting will continue to inspire the market.