The history of electric lighting as a commercial proposition begins with the invention of the Gramme dynamo, by Z. J. Gramme, in

1870, together with the introduction of the Jablochkoff candle or light, which was first announced to the public in 1876, and which formed a feature of the International Exposition at Paris in 1878. Up to this time, the electric light was known to but few investigators, one of the earliest being Sir Humphrey Davy who, in 1810, produced the first arc of any great magnitude. It was then called the voltaic arc, and resulted from the use of two wood charcoal pencils as electrodes and a powerful battery of voltaic cells as a source of current.

From 1840 to 1859, many patents were taken out on arc lamps, most of them operated by clockwork, but these were not successful, due chiefly to the lark of a suitable source of current, since all depended on primary cells for their power. The interest in this form of light died down about 1859, and nothing further was attempted until the advent of the Gramme dynamo.

The incandescent lamp was but a piece of laboratory apparatus up to 1878, at which time Edison produced a lamp using a platinum spiral in a vacuum, as a source of light, the platinum being rendered incandescent by the passage of an electric current through it. The first successful carbon filament was made in 1879, this filament being formed from strips of bamboo. The names of Edison and Swan are intimately connected with these early experiments.

From this time on, the development of electric lighting has been very rapid, and the consumption of incandescent lamps alone has reached several millions each year. When we compare the small amount of lighting done by means of electricity twenty-five years ago with the enormous extent of lighting systems and the numerous applications of electric illumination as they are to-day, the growth and development of the art is seen to be very great, and the value of a study of this subject may be readily appreciated. While in many cases electricity is not the cheapest source of power for illumination, its admirable qualities and convenience of operation make it by far the most desirable.

Copyright, 1909, by American School of Correspondence.


The subject of electric lighting may be classified as follows:

1. The type of lamps used.

2. The methods of distributing power to the lamps.

3. The use made of the light, or its application.

4. Photometry and lamp testing.

The types of lamps used may be subdivided into:

1. Incandescent lamps: Carbon, metallic filament, Nernst.

2. Special lamps: Exhausted bulb without filament, such as the Cooper-Hewitt lamp and Moore tube lamp.

3. Arc lamps: Ordinary carbon, flaming arc.