DPMNY Lamps: History of Lighting

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Lamps are nowadays one of the most sought after home decor accessories. They ornate and they create ambiance and moods butlest see their history and their evolution.


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Numerous references from olden ages have illuminated the fact that lamps have been used to spread light, even before electricity was invented, and lighting was given a new meaning. The use of lamps can be broadly classified into two eras: The pre-electrical era and the post electrical era.

Lamps: The Pre-electrical Era

The invention and first usage of lamp can be dated back to 70,000 BC. At that time, there was no metal or bronze to make lamps instead the then civilization used hollow rocks and shells. These hollow rocks were filled with moss and other natural substances and then soaked in animal fat. Animal fat acted as oil and this is how the first lamps were ignited.

With the advent of pottery, and the bronze and copper age, humans started to make lamps that imitated other natural shapes. Wicks came into existence much later and were used for controlling the flame or the rate of burning. In the 7th century BC, Greeks started using terra cotta lamps, which replaced the handheld torches. The word lamp has been derived from the Greek word lampas, which means torch.

Lamps and the Design Change:

There was a major change in the design of lamps in the 18th century, when the central burner was invented. With the invention of the burner, a separate fuel source was made from metal. Another small change made was the addition of a metal tube that could be adjusted to control the intensity of the flame or light.

This was an important discovery in terms of lighting because with adjustment, humans were able to diminish the lighting or make it bright as required. Another aspect was added to the new lamp, which was in the form of small glass chimneys. The role of the glass chimney was to protect the flame as well as control the air flow.

Swiss chemist Ami Argand used the hollow circular wick in an oil lamp for the very first time in 1783.

Fuels for Lighting

Different kinds of fuels have been used for lighting a lamp between 70,000 BC and now. Most of the early forms of fuel were beeswax, olive oil, animal fat, fish oil, sesame oil, whale oil, nut oil etc. These were also among the most commonly used forms of fuel for lighting a lamp till the late 18th century.

Around 1859, the first drilling process was initiated to find petroleum and with the advent of kerosene, which is a derivative of petroleum, lamp became more popular and usage increased. Kerosene enabled lighting was first introduced in Germany in 1853.

During the same time two other products were used for lamp lighting purposes and they were natural gas and coal. The first use of coal gas lamps was in 1784.

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