The history of the oil lamp
The oil lamp was designed by Ignacy Łukasiewicz in 1853. It was the result of research into petroleum distillation. This invention is connected with attempts to achieve a more efficient and cheaper fuel, different to the types of oils and mixtures previously used. This discovery had a direct influence on the development of the petroleum industry.
The invention of the oil lamp is connected with research, especially intensive in the first half of the19th century, to achieve more efficient and cheaper fuel than the types of oils and mixtures previously used. In Poland the research was conducted by Ignacy Łukasiewicz. By employing fractional distillation, Łukasiewicz obtained (at temperatures up to 250 °C) a distillate free from light fractions and he separated it from heavy hydrocarbons, then he refined it by using concentrated sulphuric acid solution and produced paraffin in late 1852 early 1853. The product was several times more efficient than candles and much more cost effective than oil and gas lighting. Paraffin came to be widely used in the years 1860-1865. The discovery had an immediate effect on the growth of the oil industry, starting with small companies which later developed into large corporations.
Łukasiewicz designed the paraffin lamp to check paraffin efficiency in practice. Initially, he tried to use the existing oil lamp models, but such devices were not suited for the new fuel and fonts failed. Łukasiewicz designed a prototype in co-operation with Adam Bratkowski. The lamp (of very heavy weight) consisted of a tin cylindrical paraffin tank (used as a protection against fuel explosions which occurred in oil lamps), on which a metal pipe with a mica window and holes ensuring the airflow. The wick was submerged into the tank protruded out from the tank through a special hole in a metal pipe in which it was burning. However, first attempts had unsatisfactory effects (the intensity of light generated by the lamp did not exceed 10-15 candle power).
The improved lamps were used for the first time to illuminate the hospital rooms in Lwów and on 31 July 1853 the first night operation with paraffin lamps was carried out. Later, the commonly used lamps took over the external design of oil lamps manufactured in the first half of the 19th century.
A number of scientists (for example, R. Deitmar, Schuster and Bär) were involved in improving the design. In many countries paraffin lamps became the most popular and cheapest method of lighting in the second half of the 19th century. Only the electric bulb replaced them.
This liquid is the future wealth of this country,
it’s the welfare and prosperity for its inhabitants,
it’s a new source of income for poor people
and a new branch of industry, which will bring plentiful fruits.
Ignacy Łukasiewicz 1854