February 11 is National Inventors’ Day, a date chosen to commemorate prolific inventor Thomas Alva Edison’s birthday.
Lighting Inventors, Inventions and the Impact They Made
Since innovation is the key driver behind the lighting industry and LightFair, we found this to be the perfect opportunity to celebrate some of the notable inventions and inventors that have made a mark on our industry.
Drawing inspiration from the LD+A article 50 Great Moments in Lighting (July 2021), we asked Editor/Publisher Paul Tarricone for some key highlights.
“When LD+A magazine celebrated its 50th anniversary in the July 2021 issue, we knew that what helped shape our magazine over the decades were the groundbreaking milestones—or “moments”—experienced along the way. For the July issue, we compiled a list of 50 such moments—some of which focused squarely on technology and innovation. In recognition of ‘Inventors Day,’ here are 10 key innovations in lighting featured in that article.”
10 Key Lighting Innovations
1 – TRACK LIGHTING
Invented by Lightolier in 1961, track lighting makes routing electrical wiring to individual light positions unnecessary
2 – DIMMER BREAKTHROUGH
Joel Spira, who later founded Lutron, files for a patent on the first-ever solid-state electronic dimmer in 1959. To honor this milestone, the Smithsonian adds materials related to the dimmer to its Electricity Collection in 2010.
3 – INCANDESCENT GAME CHANGE
Thomas Edison, “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” introduces his lamp using carbonized paper as a filament in 1879. His first commercial lamps used carbonized bamboo to provide longer life.
4 – COLOR RENDERING INDEX
Introduced in 1965, CRI becomes the first metric to measure how accurately a light source renders colors.
5 – BLUE LEDs
Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura (pictured) win the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the first successful blue LED.
6 – AN ELECTRIC WORLD’S FAIR
In 1893, Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing makes the first ever electrified World’s Fair possible. The Chicago event is lit with almost 100,000 incandescent lamps—the first demonstration of outdoor public lighting.
7 – THE SEAGRAM BUILDING SETS THE BAR HIGH
Designed by the veritable dream team of
architects Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, with design by lighting pioneer Richard Kelly, New York’s Seagram Building was a modern wonder when completed in 1958. It was here that Kelly implemented luminous ceilings and custom wall washers, paired with only vertical lights.
8 – LIGHTING LADY LIBERTY
The Statue of Liberty has been a playground
for new lighting technologies since 1916, with some of the first floodlight systems and new incandescent lighting in 1931. Howard Brandston worked with GE to develop two new metal halide lamps to mimic the morning sun and one to mimic the night sky in time for its centennial in 1986. Later, Musco Lighting donated an LED system after Hurricane Sandy.
9 – LED COMING OUT PARTY
Ten, nine, eight…the New Year’s Eve countdown to 2008 gave LEDs worldwide exposure. Focus Lighting and Philips
combined to equip a new Times Square Ball with 10,000 LEDs for the 100th anniversary of the ball drop.
10 – OFFICE ON THE CUTTING EDGE
The Edge, Deloitte’s award-winning office building in Amsterdam, sets a standard for workplace connectivity and sustainable design in 2016. Over 15 floors, the building
features 3,000 Philips luminaires equipped with sensors linked to a smartphone app that turns the office into a personalized space for each staffer. The app enables employees to find a parking space, a free desk, and customize the light levels and temperature for their work area.
The Lighting Community Chimes In With Some Of Their Favorite Lighting-Related Inventors & Inventions
Glenn Heinmiller, FIALD, LEED AP, LC
Principal | Lam Partners
My favorite lighting inventor is William M.C. Lam. Bill pioneered and promoted the lighting design principles that all of us use every day: Integrate lighting with architecture. Quality of light is much more important than quantity. And apply visual perception so you can meet the needs of the occupants (not the light meter). At Lam Lighting Systems, his first company, Bill developed fixtures such as the Luxxtra (point source uplight), Lumex (linear extruded uplight), and Profile (wall-mounted direct/indirect), which are the predecessors of many of the tools we use today
Lee Brandt IALD, MIES, LC
Principal | HLB Lighting Design
I am all about simplicity. My favorite lighting tool was the fluorescent strip, which would now be a simple LED strip with a diffuse lens. According to Wikipedia – the manufacturer of the first commercially available fluorescent strip light with a slimline ballast was Artcraft in 1946. They could not have done this without the work of Edmund Germer in 1934 who invented the fluorescent tube that was safe to use by consumers. A simple LED strip has so many application possibilities that it is an indispensable tool and my favorite invention.
Jason Scott Read, Principal Lighting Designer
Walt Disney Imagineering
Fred Foster was a lighting innovator, inventor, and entrepreneur who significantly advanced the art of theatrical lighting fixtures and controls, but also brought those tools into architectural contexts. Perhaps most importantly, Fred believed in the power of mentorship, creating a scholarship opportunity which I participated in as a student and am honored to now participate in as a mentor.
Roberto Corradini, Architect and Independent Lighting Designer
Lighting Design Workshop
I like the story of Alessandro Cruto. His attempts to create artificial diamonds instead led him to develop a light bulb that outperformed that of his contemporary, Thomas Edison. A great example of an open, wondering mind.
From the Fisher Marantz Stone team
Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent electric lamp, patented in 1880, allowed for the extension of the day, turning darkness into light, thus allowing society to extend the day.
One can argue that the arrival of the lightbulb presaged a surge in literacy and productivity, dramatically improving lives worldwide.
Everyone should have light.
Thomas Edison’s patent drawing and application for an improvement in electric lamps, patented January 27, 1880; Records of the Patent and Trademark Office; Record Group 241; National Archives.
Archit Jain, IALD, LEED® AP, ISLE
Principal | Oculus Light Studio
Did you know that an Indian-American Narinder Singh Kapani worked on light transmission through fibers in 1954 and coined the term Fiber Optic in 1960 that led to modern fiber optics that we use today? I choose to highlight the Father of Fiber Optics on National Inventors’ Day.