Candle & Soap Company

A Brief History of Light.

Light as technology.

In the beginning

The Sun is old school light.  So to begin with, there was that.  What is the Sun, but a gigantic ball of fire?    




The next great leap in technology occurred at the intersection of fire and food.  Not only did our ancestors use fire for light, they used it to cook. Of course, when you cook animals over fire, the animal fat will drip down onto the fire.

It is not only our use of fire that has evolved over the ages, but also our use of new fuels used to produce the fire.  It is fuel technology that has driven our progress, in lighting and most other advances.

Although exactly how it first occurred is not known, humans’ first intrusion into the night was made possible by the wood fire.  

Throughout human history we have used fire to make light, and that is true still.  Even modern LED and fluorescent lights use heat created by electricity to produce the glow that allows us to project into the night.

Using wood and other organic materials to produce fire, was our first foray into the use of fuel.  This allowed us to do things in the night, that were previously only possible by day.

Some perceptive cave dweller noticed that a stick with animal fat on it, would burn both brighter and longer, than one without.  Boom.  A new technology is discovered: The torch. Another even more creative cave dweller noticed that if you wrap the end of the stick with some of the burning animal hide soaked in animal fat, the stick will burn even brighter and longer still! Boom.  Another discovery: The wick.

At some point, an even more perceptive and creative cave dweller than the others noticed the sudsy cleaning properties of the animal fat that sat in the ashes of the fire all night, in the rain.  Soap.  That was a clean cave dweller.

This is very significant.  Animal fat would become humanity’s most efficient fuel.  The predominance of animal fat as fuel would last until 1859, with the advent of refined petroleum.

The rest is history. There is a lot of history, actually, but it all has to do with fire, fuel, and wick.. While fire remained the same until recently, fuel and wick varied over time, and from region to region, based on what was available.

For a very long time, lighting devices were mostly torches and oil lamps.  Candles actually came along later.

The earliest candles were made in China, a couple of hundred years B.C.  Those were made from whale fat.  The earliest candles in North America were actually made by burning a dried fish called a “candlefish.”  Beeswax candles were used as early as 40 B.C. in China, and possibly earlier in Egypt.

It is said that everything our eyes see is light reflecting the past.  If you ever want to see the further into the past, just light a candle.