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Oil lamps have been around since prehistoric times and were one of the earliest inventions of man. Some archaeologists maintain that oil lamps have been around some seventy two thousand years.
These early lamps were made of stone and used animal fat as fuel. They were used for religious purposes and to light up the caves that prehistoric man lived in in those times.
It is known that around four thousand years before Christ that the Egyptians used oil lamps extensively, and had done so for centuries to illuminate their homes, and to light up statues of their gods. The Ancient Greeks also extensively use oil lamps to light up statues of their gods, and in Athens they had a very large oil lamp called Callimachus, which only needed filling up once a year.
Wicks are believed to have been introduced in oil lamps during the 7th century by the Greeks, to control the rate of burning. They also developed the first terra cotta lamps. It is interesting to note that the word Lamp is derived from the Greek word lampas, which meant touch.
Around 350 years BC the first pottery moulded oil lamps appeared which improved both the functionality and appearance of the oil lamps. It gave a much greater scope to better decorate and adorn the lamps.
The design of oil lamps started to change in the Iron Age when flatter and deeper lamps with upright spouts started to appear
The first lamps that appeared in Europe, were brought there by the Romans during the establishment of the Roman Empire. In Italy, the first large scale factory production started, and they produced lamps that were closed in to prevent spillage, they had a top part with spout and a bottom part to contain the fuel.
Lamps developed in many varieties and sizes with one to multiple spouts and generally had lots more decoration and design, and acquired handles. As time went by they started to use other materials copper, brass and bronze.
The modern type of lamp was developed in the 17th century to replace candles and the older types of oil lamps. A major improvement was made in the 18th century when the central burner was invented, and the fuel source totally enclosed in a solid metal or glass container. This meant for the first time that the intensity of the light could be controlled.
It was around the late 1700,s that a swiss chemist named Argand added a hollow round wick, and glass chimney to the oil lamp to protect the flame from being blown out, and control the efficient air flow around the flame.
Animal fats were replaced as fuel by a variety of lighting fuels, olive oil, whale oil and beeswax where most common, then. Then in the mid 1800,s kerosene was more widely available and replaced most of the other lighting oil products, although natural gas and coal gas were also still used.
In 1865 a German company Wild & Wessel of Berlin invented the modern Kosmos type of round burner, and in the early 1900,s The mantle Lamp Company, which became Aladdin lamps developed other improvements like wick cleaners, new types of mantles and eventually were one of the first oil lamp manufacturers to embrace the new energy electricity
The first electric incandescent lamps were developed by Sir Joseph Swann and Thomas Edison in the 1870,s, which eventually replaced the universal use of oil lamps. .