How were lamps first made

From fire to LED lamps - a look at the history of lighting.

Light has been a constant for humans since the beginning of our evolution and has influenced our daily routine for millions of years. So much so that new lighting concepts are now being designed under the technical term "Human Centric Lighting" that respond to this need. If you realize how long humans have been exposed to natural light in evolution and that we have only been using artificial light for 150 years, this is understandable. In this article, we take a close look at the history of lighting.


50 th. Chr | The beginnings of the use of fire in the Stone Age

Our evolution has its origin in Africa, from where primitive man spread over the entire northern hemisphere. The discovery and use of fire as a source of light and heat played a decisive role in this. In fact, there are fire pits that are more than 1.5 million years old.

At first it was not possible to make it yourself - lightning strikes, forest fires or volcanoes usually created it; This created fixed fireplaces where it was permanently kept in check and thus became a source of heat and an evening gathering place. The oldest evidence of such a permanent fireplace was found as charcoal remains, e.g. B. found in the cave of Choukoutien in China, where the Peking man - the local Homo erectus - maintained a campfire over 500,000 years ago.

The dependence on the sun as an exclusive source of heat and light was put into perspective. The fire was the focus of the societies of that time. For a long time, the camp was the place where stories and the transfer of culture to the next generation emerged. Fire retained this importance for humans until the beginning of the industrial revolution.


Nevertheless, fire developed differently as an artificial light source in different cultures. The first "mobile lights" were probably simple torches that were simply pulled out of the fire on the not yet burning side and thus gave off light for a short time. Little by little, people learned how fire can be ignited and how simple torches can be turned into longer-lasting light sources. Wooden torches soaked in resin, the so-called Kienspan, were the first lights that lasted about half an hour. Until the Middle Ages, this was an important source of light in human dwellings and in ore mines. But since the burning point and fuel were one, they were only very short-lived.

From 20 th. Chr. | From fire to gas and oil-powered light

Oil and tallow lamps were probably discovered around 20,000 BC. What was new was that the burning point and the fuel were now separated from each other and thus represented longer-lasting light sources. The first evidence of the invention of the candle comes from around 500 BC. With the control of the fire an important means of use was found, which contributed significantly to the evolution and development of civilizations. The discovery of fossil fuels in the 18th and 19th centuries was revolutionary.

From then on, coal, oil and gas were used to generate energy and light. These new fuels brought an industrial boom and in many places a wide variety of scientists competed for new inventions and discoveries in the physical, chemical and mechanical fields. They were all pioneers of industrialization. Gas lamps were invented around 1785 and now illuminate e.g. B. Theaters, factories, silver mines, streets and some upper class premises. However, there was always an unpleasant smell when burning and the open flame was dangerous.

From 1879 | The invention of the incandescent lamp and the development of LED

The way to the incandescent lamp was paved by Werner von Siemens in 1866 when he invented the dynamo machines with which electricity could now be generated. But it was not until the invention of the incandescent lamp that affordable light was finally introduced into people's everyday lives. After a few attempts, it was Thomas Alva Edison in 1879 who applied for the patent for his improved incandescent lamp.

He understood that there had to be an even voltage for lighting and brought the inventions of some other scientists to technical maturity. The incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament came on the market. Edison heralded the next chapter in the history of lighting.

In the decades that followed, the electrical supply network was expanded worldwide. After numerous improvements to the incandescent lamp, the halogen lamp was added in the 1950s and finally the compact fluorescent lamp, also known as “energy-saving lamp”, in the eighties.

White LED light could already be produced in 1993, but with only a very low light yield. Since the incandescent lamp was banned in 2009, the LED variants have found their way into more and more households. Because one disadvantage of the original incandescent lamp was its inefficiency: less than 5% of the electrical energy was converted into light, the rest was heat. In addition, it consumed a relatively large amount of electricity compared to LED technology. In 2008 the first LED string light from Ushio Lighting was presented. Since then, LED light sources have developed rapidly into ever more efficient, long-lasting, compact and flexible models.

From 2012 | The discovery of Human Centric Lighting

Science is gradually discovering how the light spectra of different light sources affect the human organism. The switch to LED lighting and the development of intelligent lighting control systems are not only the key to extremely energy-efficient lighting solutions. In addition, they offer completely new applications that were previously unimaginable.


Luminaires are developed that are better adapted than ever before to the functional, biological and emotional needs of humans. Producing light as a light source is more and more on the decline. Under “Human Centric Lighting” luminaires are used to emit light in the way the sun “implanted” into our organism millions of years ago.

This creates light, which sets important hormonal processes in motion in the body and thus makes us more willing to perform and more relaxed, depending on the time of day or night, or according to individual programming of the light. Thanks to the development of OLEDs, unimaginably individual and extremely thin luminaires can also be constructed so that they can be installed practically anywhere in rooms and, as a luminaire, radiate light almost invisibly onto the body. The potential of the LED is far from being exhausted. So it remains to be seen how the history of lighting evolves.