IN the Revue Scientifique of October 28, M. R. Boutville gives an interesting account of the public lighting of Paris from the earliest times until the end of the nineteenth century. He points out that the first public lamp was the famous candle lantern placed in front of the Grand Chatelet in 1318. An ordinance of Louis XIV in 1667 increased the number of lamps in the streets and insisted that they should be lit 4even in moonlight from November 1 until March 1. A medal was struck in 1669 to commemorate the securing of the safety of the city at night. The next step in advance was the invention in 1774 by the Abbe Matherot de Perigny of an oil lamp with a silvered reflector. The way in which this reflector distributed the light led some to think that nothing better could be invented in the future. During the Revolution, some of these lamps were suspended by pylons and some by span wires fastened across the street at a height of about 16 ft. The lamps, obstructed the traffic when they had to be trimmed and their containers replenished. By the use of Argand burners in 1821, the lighting was improved. The first gas lamps were placed in the Place du Carrousel in 1829. The number of flat-flame gas lamps, each burner giving a modest light of about 10 candle power, increased from 14,000 to 21,000 between 1839 and 1870. Jablochkoff electric candles were used in 1878 to light the Avenue de l'Opera, and people still living can remember the spluttering carbons and the fluctuating light they gave. At the Paris Exhibition of 1900, it was still doubtful whether lighting by incandescent gas mantles or open arc lamps was the better. At that date there were 50,900 street lamps in Paris. It would be unsafe to prophesy how it will be illuminated twenty years hence.
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History of the Public Lighting of Paris. Nature 132, 888–889 (1933). https://doi.org/10.1038/132888c0