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Tallow candles, Arc Lamps and LEDs What do you know about the history of lighting

Tallow candles, Arc Lamps and LEDs - What do you know about the history of lighting?

Tuesday 07 June 2022

Humans, until relatively recently, have always been held back by a simple but significant problem. Sunlight-hours are a limited resource.

The desire to generate light for use throughout the darker days and darker nights has affected every period of human history. From the first controlled manipulations of fire 125,000 years ago, to the amazing technology of solid-state lighting today, human ingenuity is the common denominator connecting all of us.

While some of us seem to share more with our cave-dwelling ancestors than most, we all know the value of a light-source, be it a candle, or a bedside lamp. But how much do you know about the history of light, and the bright ideas of our clever ancestors?

1) The Romans are often credited with the invention of tallow candles, but what is tallow?

Animal Fat

Paraffin Wax

Dried fish oil

2) The first practical electric lamp was called the Arc Lamp, invented by British chemist Sir Humphry Davies between 1802-1809. While it is mostly obsolete today, the design is still used as a high-intensity source of which harmful wavelength?



Gamma rays

3) In 1879 Thomas Edison patented the first carbon filament incandescent bulb, but what was the name of the English physicist and inventor who patented a similar device in the same year?

Sir Thomas Sparrow

Sir Robin Johnson

Sir Joseph Swan

4) Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan founded one of the most influential companies in the history of lighting technologies, but what was that company called?

Corporal Current PLC

General Electric

Major Lighting

5) In 1901, a new kind of fluorescent lamp was invented, which relied on sending an electric charge through a vapour of which toxic element?




6) The original material used in the incandescent lightbulb was carbon, but in the 20th century, this was changed for one which was much more durable and had a very high melting point.

Which element was chosen to replace carbon filaments?




7) In 1953, the first practical halogen lamp was invented, to improve the efficiency of lighting. This worked by returning the material of the filament in a cyclical chemical reaction, called the halogen cycle.

Which highly prevalent lighting technology was improved by halogen bulbs?

Incandescent Lighting

Fluorescent Lighting

Sodium-vapour Street Lamps

8) The first laser was developed in 1960 by Theodore Maiman. The unique name “laser” is actually an anagram, but what do the letters stand for?

Luminous Articulate for Simulation of Energised Radio-waves

Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

Lightweight Anode Surface for Expanding Radiants

9) In 2014, Shuji Nakamura, Hiroshi Amano and Isamu Akasaki were awarded the Nobel prize for developing a certain colour of LED. But which important colour of LED did they develop?




10) The sun has made life possible on Earth, by bathing us in light for millions of years, which it will continue to do for millions more. This is the lighting “technology” which has made all of the others possible, as without it, we would not exist.

What is the physical process called, which allows the sun to emit light?

Nuclear Fusion

Intra-Solar combustion

Galactic Photo-Luminescence

We hope this quiz lit up your world, at least for a brief, flickering moment.

Our average score in the office was an impressive 7/10. Can you beat it?


1) Animal Fat

2) Ultraviolet

3) Sir Joseph Swan

4) General Electric

5) Mercury

6) Tungsten

7) Incandescent Lighting

8) Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

9) Blue

10) Nuclear Fusion


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