Pair of annular wick Argand lamps, c 1800.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The first revolutionary improvement in lamp design since early times was made by Ami Argand (b 1755) of Geneva, while working in France in 1782-1784. He bent a wider wick into a circle and allowed air to reach the inside of the flame along a central tube, permitting improved combustion. A reservoir, usually vase-shaped, held the oil. Argand's smokeles lamp gave up to twelve times the light previously obtainable from a simple wick like a piece of string, but the oil consumption was correspondingly high.