Historians largely agree that the first lamp came to be about 70,000 years ago. It was a fat-based illumination “technology”, where a rock, a shell, or similar natural object was filled with moss, then it was soaked in animal fat and ignited. This was a big improvement on the lasting quality of the light over the lit-stick, the first pre-lamp illumination object. Over the next 65,000 years or so, many improvements were made. Pottery replaced having to find natural objects, and wicks were added to add even more control of burning and various shapes were created for easy handling. By 4,500 BC these lamps started to use oil as their main fuel source.
The next big step, one which played a huge role in most of our pre-industrial history, was the invention of the candle in 3,000 BC. I still remember using these as emergency lights during power outages in my home in the 80’s. Every good home used to have these around. Candles are still part of many legends. It was thanks to candle light that Abe Lincoln was able to read and get himself adequately prepared to become one of the greatest presidents of US history. And it was the monks in the dark ages that transcribed many books on the eve of the renaissance. The candle in other words, helped our species get smarter, faster.
There were two cool little inventions until lighting technology started really accelerating in the industrial era that are worth mentioning. In 900 AD, the kerosene lamp was invented and in 1000 we had our first street lamps in Cordoba, modern day Spain.
And then, lighting evolution started moving at the speed of light. Ok, maybe not quite, but there was acceleration. In the late 1700’s glass chimneys enhanced the illumination of the kerosene lamps, and the first gas light was invented by 1792. By early 1800’s we started to illuminate the interiors of our factories and by mid 1830’s the first light bulb was demonstrated to the world. Just 50 years later, Thomas Edison brought the first incandescent light bulbs to market. These were the precursors to the lights that dominated interior lighting well into the 20th century. In the early 1900’s neon light added some color to the story of illumination, and later in the century fluorescent lights gave us really bright illumination with very little energy usage. All of these inventions contributed greatly to help bring us work longer, smarter, faster, and helped bring us into the world of today.
More recently, at the end of the 20th century a new type of light was brought to market, the Light-emitting Diode or LED. This is a game changer with respect to energy efficiency as well as control over the illumination. LED’s are tiny, bright and when combined with sensors can produce light that is much better for our eyes than ever before. Prior to the invention of the LED and its smart application in today’s lamps, human made lighting was always either too dim, too bright or the wrong tone, and this resulted in lighting that made us tired and our eyes sore.
Today, we can choose from a great variety of lamps that are perfectly suited for our working and living environments. Besides the great LED-based, and sensor enhanced illumination, we have to also consider solid, premium material based design. As well as form factors that are flexible and sturdy. We have summed up the history of lamps and created informative and beautiful infographics of the evolution to you.
We’ve come a long way since we depended solely on the natural light provided by the sun, moon, and the stars. But in the way we’ve come much closer to creating light that is natural and comfortable for our eyes. The great thing is, we can only see a brighter future ahead.
The Lights You Desire to See: The Evolution of Lamps
2016 Lamp Design Trends You Don’t Want to Miss Out On!
10 Big Mind Blowing Facts about Little LEDs