Ancient Lamp History – About 70000 years ago man made lighting occurred.

Ancient Lamp Technology

To the best of our archaeological knowledge, the first attempt at man-made lighting occurred about 70,000 years ago. The first ancient lamp was invented made of a shell, hollowed-out rock, or other similar non-flammable object which was filled with a combustible material (probably dried grass or wood), sprinkled with animal fat (the original lighter fluid) and ignited.

Ancient Oil Lamp

As time passed, materials such as pottery and alabaster were used. Wicks were added to the ancient lamp to control the rate of burning. Around the 7th century BC, the Greeks started making terra cotta lamps to replace handheld torches. In fact, the word lamp is derived from the Greek word lampas meaning torch.

Hand held lighting developments continued but still used the same basic technology – control the burning of a fuel (natural oils, waxes, and the like) with wicks, tubes, chimneys, vents, and other similar devices, and put it in an attractive and/or practical housing.

Centuries would pass before the next big thing in lighting would be developed.

The First Electric Lamp

The evolution of ancient lamp to electric based technology was the carbon-arc lamp, demonstrated in 1801 by Sir Humphrey Davy, an English chemist. Electric lights became popular only after the incandescent lamp was developed independently by Sir Joseph Swan in England and Thomas Edison in the United States. The latter patented his invention in 1880 and subsequently made it the commercial success that it is today.

Portrait of Thomas Edison, 1893. http://www.nps.gov/edis/images/14915001.jpg

Above Thomas Edison, 1893

Post is attributable to an article posted at http://www.ies.org/lighting/history/