Article ID: CBB001021546

The Origins of Gaslight Technology in Eighteenth-Century Pneumatic Chemistry (2009)


The interaction between science and technology in the Industrial Revolution has been debated by various authors over the years. Most recently, Ursula Klein has described eighteenth-century chemistry as an interconnected system of science and technology because of the inherently productive nature of chemical experimentation. The technology used in the nineteenth gaslight industry follows the pattern that Klein describes: gaslight technology was derived from the academic studies of eighteenth-century pneumatic chemists. The foundation of the technology in science included first, a knowledge about inflammable gases and their properties, and second, various instruments and processes developed for the study of gases. Although inflammable exhalations had been known long before the eighteenth-century, it was only with the work of Priestley, Volta, Berthollet, and other chemists that their properties and characteristics, including the multiplicity of species of inflammable gases, became known. The instruments and processes of pneumatic chemistry that were incorporated into gaslight apparatus were the retort, the pneumatic trough, lime purification of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide, and finally the gasometer. The first important instance of lighting with inflammable gases, that of J. P. Minckelers in 1785, demonstrates that pneumatic chemistry formed part of an interconnected network of science and technology, as does the work of other early gaslight pioneers such as Philippe Lebon, Zachaumlus Winzler, and William Murdoch. Lebon came to gaslight through the investigation of distillation processes, and later thought of using the inflammable gas produced in this way. Zachaumlus Winzler, an Austrian chemist, recreated Lebon's thermolamp from the instruments in his laboratory after hearing descriptions of it. In the case of William Murdoch, he incorporated the pneumatic apparatus that James Watt had built for Thomas Beddoes.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Thesis Tomory, Leslie; (2009)
Progressive Enlightenment: The Origins of the Gaslight Industry 1780--1820 (/isis/citation/CBB001561121/)

Article Tomory, Leslie; (2011)
Gaslight, distillation, and the Industrial Revolution (/isis/citation/CBB001180647/)

Chapter Ford, Peter; Rolls, Roger; (2008)
Airs and Waters: The Hot Springs and Bath Chemistry (/isis/citation/CBB001022809/)

Article Tomory, Leslie; (2010)
William Brownrigg's Papers on Fire-Damps (/isis/citation/CBB001022712/)

Article Stewart, Larry; (2009)
His Majesty's Subjects: From Laboratory to Human Experiment in Pneumatic Chemistry (/isis/citation/CBB000932258/)

Book Allen, Douglas W.; (2012)
The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World (/isis/citation/CBB001320973/)

Chapter Cohen, H. Floris; (2009)
The Rise of Modern Science as a Fundamental Pre-Condition for the Industrial Revolution (/isis/citation/CBB001035359/)

Book Klein, Ursula; Spary, E. C.; (2010)
Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory (/isis/citation/CBB001020046/)

Book Klein, Ursula; Lefèvre, Wolfgang; (2007)
Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science: A Historical Ontology (/isis/citation/CBB000772272/)

Chapter Klein, Ursula; (2004)
Chemical Technoscience in Eighteenth-Century Europe (/isis/citation/CBB000411176/)

Book Vega, Jesusa; (2010)
Ciencia, Arte e Ilusión en la España Ilustrada (/isis/citation/CBB001201788/)

Book Gavroglu, Kostas; (2014)
History of Artificial Cold: Scientific, Technological and Cultural Issues (/isis/citation/CBB001500399/)

Chapter Ferdinando Abbri; (2015)
La struttura della materia (/isis/citation/CBB947386886/)

Article Tomory, Leslie; (2011)
Gaslight, Distillation, and the Industrial Revolution (/isis/citation/CBB001036163/)

Book Ribbat, Christoph; (2013)
Flickering Light: A History of Neon (/isis/citation/CBB001551194/)

Article Chalmers, Alan F.; (2010)
Boyle and the Origins of Modern Chemistry: Newman Tried in the Fire (/isis/citation/CBB001021651/)

Book Fisher, David; (2010)
Much Ado about (Practically) Nothing: A History of the Noble Gases (/isis/citation/CBB001022745/)

Chapter Werrett, Simon; (2007)
From the Grand Whim to the Gasworks: “Philosophical Fireworks” in Georgian England (/isis/citation/CBB000774667/)

Authors & Contributors
Tomory, Leslie
Klein, Ursula
Stewart, Larry R.
Lefèvre, Wolfgang
Werrett, Simon
Spary, E. C.
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
History of Science
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
University of Chicago Press
MIT Press
Oxford University Press
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Ediciones Polifemo
Science and technology, relationships
Industrial revolution
Pneumatic chemistry
Lighting, gas
Wedgwood, Josiah
Beddoes, Thomas
Boyle, Robert
Brownrigg. William
Cavendish, Henry
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
17th century
20th century, late
15th century
Great Britain
Bath (England)
South Korea
Royal Society of London
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment