Without light, we get nowhere. Our eyes have adapted to the presence of light, and the rest of our senses depend on sight. Therefore, it is not a strange thing that people already tried to generate light at a very early stage. In this way, people could also use this untouchable and visible element after dark. On this page, we go back in time to witness the history of light.
And suddenly there was … light
According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, God is the inventor of light. He first created the sky and the earth. But, it was a dark place, so God decided to bring light into the darkness. God liked this idea and then decided to separate the light and the dark. Scientists think differently on this subject, they have calculated that the sun already exists longer than the Earth. The sun is more than 4.6 billion years old, the Earth already came later. It doesn’t matter where you are, and what you believe, but the light is simply indispensable in our lives. Sunlight does not only come from light, but also for the production of vitamin D. Therefore, for all that, we owe a lot to that fireball that gives our planet light and heat.
The discovery of fire changed us a lot and helped us to evolve. Of course, fire already existed, but when people discovered how to make and control it, many new possibilities arose. It is not known exactly when this change took place but it is known that it was between 1.7 million and 200,000 years ago. Unfortunately, the calendar was invented later, but they found flints and ashes to make fire. Fire isn’t only a source of light, it was also used to heat and to cook. And it served for protection; animals fear fire after all. Thus, life became easier and safer and gave us a push to move to colder areas.
Animal fat was also highly inflammable. A mixture of moss and animal fat was inserted through a hollow stone or other hollow structures with which a very primitive candle could be obtained already 70,000 years ago. Since the discovery of that candle, it didn’t take long to improve the process and produce candles like the ones we have today. The use of grease in the lamps became easier to transport and control. Today there are tales of people who burned out while they were sleeping thanks to spontaneous combustion, but we already know that this is most likely to cause people to mess around with candles with cigarettes.
It took us until 4500 B.C. to invent the oil lamp. We added several flammable liquids to a container, and thus created a light source that could burn controllably and for a long time. The containers could be made of rock or clay, sometimes with a handle. The liquid used could be nut oil or seed oil. Garden torches are still based on this design. Therefore, it is one of the sources of today that survived modernization. Although there are new methods, the oil lamp retains a certain attraction. As for safety, they leave something to be desired.
After having invented the oil lamp, the candle as we know it today was invented. However, oil was liquid and therefore more dangerous than solid materials. The Romans started to put ropes into animal fats and also wax was favorable for this work as a candle but it cost more. The oldest sails were found in China, made of whale blubber. In the Middle Ages, candle making became a specialized work, especially with the new candlesticks. Beeswax smoked less than animal fat, so it was usually used by the nobility. In the 18th century, vegetable fats produced high-quality, low-priced candles. From then on you could measure the light intensity in “Candela”, a standard unit of light quantity where one candle was equal to one Candela.
The history of light: Bulbs
As much as fire, electricity also appears in nature. It would take until the 18th century for someone to be able to generate electricity at a stable level. Especially Benjamin Franklin took a big part in this role. In the 14th century, the idea of using electricity to produce light spread to more scientists. Experiments were made with various wires and encapsulations until Thomas Edison brought his product to market with long life and low price. Read more about this in this blog post.