At his blog, Kafka's Mouse, author P.D. Smith details the history of lighting infrastructure in cities—a story that begins with the dawn of gas lights.
London was the first city to get gas-powered street lamps, in 1812. But it was not the first city to hear such an idea proposed. In fact, in an alternate reality, Paris could have been the first illuminated city — had they only listened to tragically hip engineer Philippe Lebon, who was into gas street lamps before they were cool.
It was the French engineer Philippe Lebon (1767-1804) who had the ingenious – though as it turned out premature – idea of using the gas produced from burning wood for heating and lighting cities. He was utterly convinced that he had discovered a new power source for what he called ‘thermolamps or stoves that heat cheaply’. But like many inventors, he found it difficult to convince others that his ideas could work. The French government rejected his proposal to illuminate Paris with gas lights.
So, in 1801, Lebon rented a house in the heart of Paris and, using his invention, spectacularly illuminated its rooms and even the grotto in the garden. Despite this shining example, the French press poured scorn on his idea and manufacturers remained sceptical. Poor Lebon was ruined and his idea faded with the turning out of the last gas-lamp in his show-house. Lebon had spent his entire family fortune on the idea and died in 1804, a bitter man.
But the very next year, William Murdock – who had also invented an ingenious pneumatic urban message system – began installing coal-gas lighting in mills in Manchester and Halifax. Murdock had started experimenting with coal-gas a few years earlier, after hearing of Lebon’s gas-lit house. The age of gas lighting had finally dawned, but sadly without its pioneer, Lebon, ever seeing its light.
Read the rest at Kafka's Mouse
Image: A gas lamp, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from jamescridland's photostream
Blue writes, “Peter Watts has be stricken with debilitating pain, loss of range of motion and motor control. Watts’ doctors remain baffled despite a battery of tests, and Watts has reached out to his fans to ask for their theories and ideas as to what might be causing his illness.”
Today, I’ve launched a very special Kickstarter with two friends, Timothy Daly and Lawrence Azerrad. A year in the making (and many more years on our minds), the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition is the first vinyl release of the stunning golden phonograph record launched by NASA in 1977 aboard the Voyager spacecraft, one […]
Bret Victor complained on Twitter that technologists were wasting their imaginations, energy and talent on things that wouldn’t matter after climate change reduced the world to a drowned cinder; his followers pushed back and asked what they, as technologists, could do about climate change.
Evan Kimbrell, founder of the digital agency Sprintkick, recently released a series of online courses that feature some of the best advice we’ve come across. These courses are well worth your time, and will save you from making many typical mistakes down the line if you ever want to start your own business.With this Business […]
Handy is the most convenient solution we’ve found for booking a house cleaning at the last minute, and they do a really great job. It’s as easy as heading to the site, selecting a date and time that works for you and the number of rooms in your home. We’ve even scheduled emergency cleanings as soon as the following day. […]
With all the new amazing games and consoles out there, we still can’t help but have a soft spot for old school staples. From Super Mario to Mortal Kombat, classic games just never get old. Which is why we’re so excited to relive the nostalgia with our newest deal in the Boing Boing Shop: The Complete SNES […]