Joseph Wilson Swan's Light BulbOutdoor lighting makes tasks such as walking at nighttime, navigating roads safely, and protecting your home against intruders easier and safer. It wasn’t until the 18th century that artificial lighting became accessible to people and the world has changed for the better ever since. We are a lucky generation living in modern times with a wide range of technological advancements, including cutting-edge outdoor lighting.

What started as fire torches being being mounted to walls for ambient lighting, has now evolved into modern LED lights that have created greater efficiency and improved quality of life. The United States alone has over 160 million outdoor lighting fixtures installed in public and commercial areas. The history of outdoor lighting is rich with genious scientists and methods of exploration that led to the illuminated world we depend on today. If you are interested in the history of outdoor lighting then this is the article for you.

Outdoor Lighting in the 18th Century

Outdoor lighting was not mainstream in the 18th century. In fact, most countries did not have a sophisticated outdoor lighting system to facilitate to their citizens. Yet, Americans had made substantial efforts to illuminate their cities’ streets and roads.

Most people used oil lamps, torches, and candles to illuminate their homes and outdoor areas between 1700 and 1775. These oils for lamps would come from animals, including fish and whales. It was a common practice in colonial America to use whale oil for lights installed outside homes or on the streets.

Outdoor Lighting in the 19th Century

The 19th century streamlined the concept of outdoor light. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that researchers and scientists started focusing on improving outdoor lighting. In fact, outdoor lighting became necessary for labourers working after dark and for increasing productivity.

Humphry Davy, a British chemist, was the first to invent an innovative product called the arc lamp. It would use an electrical ark to produce light. Humprhy used a 2,000-cell battery and charcoal sticks to develop an arc with a 100mm or 4-inch gap.

This was an important invention in the 19th century, allowing the government to illuminate the roads, streets, and walkways and providing an opportunity for industries to enable their employees to work at night.

People living in London experienced their first gas-lit street in 1807, America was not behind in the race with installed gas-lit lights in the streets of Baltimore in 1816. Paris, France, also used gas around 1820 to illuminate its roads and walkways. Gas-powered outdoor lighting quickly began to revolutionize everyday life around the globe.

Scientists in the 19th century continued making efforts to develop new outdoor lighting fixtures. In 1831, Michael Faraday experimented with electromagnetic induction and succeeded after producing electricity from magnetic fields.

In 1857, Heinrich Geissler, a German glassblower, created the Geissler tube, a gas-discharge lamp that transformed the concept and construction of lighting fixtures. Gaissler’s contributions to outdoor lighting were monumental and led to the development of a fluorescent lamp.

Outdoor Lighting in the 20th Century

Scientists, researchers, innovators, and inventors played a significant role in streamlining outdoor lighting by continuously improving on the work of other scientists around the world. The primary objective of their contributions toward modern technologies was to ensure a safe, comfortable, effective, and productive society.

Many scientists and inventors focused on finding or creating a low-cost filament to produce energy-efficient lighting fixtures. Irving Langmuir worked on the tungsten filament and aimed to improve its design. Langmuir coiled the filament and added gas to the bulb to create an incandescent light.

This was a revolutionary development or a significant breakthrough that would allow local governments and city administrators to illuminate streets and streamline travelling via cars at night. By 1930, most American cities had incandescent streetlights.

On the other hand, European engineers also made substantial efforts to create light bulbs and fixtures, with German engineers working on fluorescent bulbs in the late 1920s. Germans used phosphors to convert UV lights into white light visible to human eyes. In addition, these fluorescent lights were more reliable than incandescent bulbs because they were brighter, more reliable, and cost-effective.

In 1959, Gilbert Reiling developed metallic salts-based lamps to produce a more comfortable light. Scientists had developed mercury vapour lights with colour correction features by the end of 1960.

In 1962, Nick Holonyak Jr. used red diodes to create LED lights with a visible spectrum. High-pressure sodium (HPS) lights became mainstream in the 1970s and replaced traditional street lights. Edward Hammer worked on the fluorescent bulb to produce a more efficient light called the “compact fluorescent light (CFL).

Scientists developed white LED lights by modifying blue diodes in the 1990s. White LED lights are more energy efficient and have a wide range of applications, such as TVs, flashlights, streetlights, and traffic lights.

The history of outdoor lighting is a very rich and fascinating history with many interesting developments that lead to technology that is crucial to our everyday lives. Artificial lighting is a true feat of human engineering, and Shine retrofits is oroud to house some of the greatest ourdoor lighting fixture brands on the market.

If you are looking to start your next outdoor lighting project, but don’t know where to begin, the team at Shine Retrofits is here to help. Contact our team at 1-800-983-1315. We can’t wait to hear from you!