'Lighthouse Machine', 1885.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by R J Chandler showing a 'magneto-electric machine' providing current for arc lights used in a lighthouse beacon. British engineer Frederick Hale Holmes (c 1840-1875) found that magneto-electric generators could provide a continuous current able to produce a brilliant electric arc for lighting. Electric lights were far more powerful than wood and coal fires, pitch pots and candle lanterns which were used previously, making navigation at night far safer for shipping. The South Foreland Lighthouse off the Kent coast was the first to have an electric light in 1858. Illustration from 'Elementary Treatise on Natural Philosophy' by Augustin Privat-Deschanel (1821-1883), published in 1885.