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Technical Discoveries and Innovations

Electric lighting grew out of 19th century scientific discoveries in England, France and the United States in the production of electricity and subsequent technical innovations that promoted its transmission and distribution to an increasing number of consumers. This was the context for the work done between 1820 and 1850 by Hans Christian Oersted, Michael Faraday and Antoine-Hippolyte Pixii related to electromagnetism, and, in the second half of the 19th century, by Floris Nollet, Frederick Hale Holmes and Zénobe Gramme in the development of generators for electric lighting.

The first innovation, the arc lamp, was the culmination of a series of experiments begun in 1847 by William Edward Staite and Rooks Evelyn Bell Crompton in England, Charles F. Brush in the United States and Paul Jablochkoff in France. The latter developed the electric candles that were to illuminate the Avenue and Place de l'Opera in Paris in 1877. J.-A.-I. Craig was inspired by Jablochkoff's candles when he gave electric lighting demonstrations in Montreal in 1878 and 1879. Available commercially by the end of the 1870s, arc lamps were lit only at times of deep darkness and never when there was a full moon. They produced light one hundred times stronger than gas lamps.

By the 1920s, the arc lamp gave way to incandescent lamps, which, being smaller, were less costly to produce and used less energy.

The 1930s brought an expansion of cities, increased automobile traffic, construction of highways, and the need for greater road safety, all demanding appropriate lighting. These factors, combined with research in the field of electric lighting, led to the widespread installation of fluorescent lights and mercury and sodium vapour lamps