History of Fluorescent Lighting

When looking at the history of one type of lamp in the lighting world, it is important to note that progress doesn’t occur in a vacuum. When a new advance is made in one area of lighting, it naturally inspires new innovations in other areas of lighting. Nowhere is this principle of innovation begetting innovation more evident than in the history of fluorescent lighting. Here is a brief history of fluorescent lighting to highlight this point further.

The road to fluorescent lighting was paved slowly starting in the 1890s when Thomas Edison tested a prototype. However, this prototype while successful, proved to be unsuitable for more than a brief illumination.

The road to success for fluorescent lighting would actually find its footing thanks to the introduction of mercury vapor lamps. Created by Peter Cooper Hewitt in 1890s, this type of lamp used glass tubes which would later become the model used for fluorescent lighting. While this type of lamp was crucial to the success of fluorescents, it used gas rather than electrical components as that technology hadn’t been introduced yet.

In the 1926, the idea of fluorescent lighting came to the forefront by way of the works of Jacques Risler. He was the first to place a coating of fluorescence inside the glass tubing of a mercury lamp. While this was a step in the right direction, it was still a mercury lamp as opposed to a new lamp type altogether.

It wasn’t until 1934 when the first commercially produced fluorescent lighting would hit the market. With decades of research and a team of skilled individuals, General Electric introduced the first fluorescent lamps. These became staples in businesses because they offered a better quality of light, longer lasting lamps, and overall better return on costs than typical incandescent bulbs of the time.

In 1938, General Electric would introduce newer models which improved upon the original design. They introduced the T12 and T8 models which would expand the usage of the lamps to new areas. The T12 offered 15 watts whereas the T8 offered 30 watts which made these options high performing compared to other options on the market at the time.

As the public demand for this type of lighting grew, there were several advancements along the way. For example, in 1980, Philips designed the first line of screw-in fluorescent for magnetic ballasts which served to effectivity replace incandescent by a landslide. The affordability of the lamps coupled with the performance made them a staple in both commercial and residential lighting for that day forward. In the 1990s, a T5 lamp was introduced which offered an even more efficient solution.

Today, fluorescent lighting remains a mainstay in the lighting world. It is one of the most widely sold options on the market because it is still an affordable lighting solution that offers a lot in return.