Electric Lighting Timeline
Electric 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.
In 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.
In 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.
Amidst 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.
In 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.
Light 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.
The 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.