LIGHT BULBS AND fluorescent tubes are the major sources of lighting today. Here are some milestones in the history of lighting before incandescent lamps became an indispensable part of our lives. 400,000BC Homo erectus discovers fire probably by accident when lightning strikes a tree and sets it on fire. 13,000BC Prehistoric man creates lamps with whatever they can lay their hands on, including rocks, shells and horns. They fill these lamps with animal fat or vegetable oil and insert fibre wicks. 5000BC Oily birds and fish are threaded with wicks and burned as lamps. Fireflies are used by some as light sources. 3000BC The wealthy in ancient lands such as Babylon and Egypt use oil lamps fuelled by animal fat, fish and vegetable oil. 600BC The Greeks use pottery to shape lamps and hold oil. 500BC The Greeks and Romans create enclosed oil-reservoir lamps made of pottery or metal with protruding wicks. AD100 The horn lantern is used as a safe and reliable portable light source. 400 The candle is invented but is not immediately popular because the low-quality wax has a strong smell and the flame is unstable. 1565 - 1675 Theatre in Renaissance Europe flourishes with the aid of natural light, torches, oil lamps and candles as the principal sources of illumination. Chandeliers with candles are used indoors. 1660 The main source of light during the Restoration theatre period is still chandeliers with flames fuelled by grease. Dripping grease is a problem, with workers constantly needing to trim the wicks, regardless of what is happening on stage. Footlights begin to appear in theatres around 1673. 1669 German scientist Hennig Brand discovers phosphorus in 1669. The material is derived from human urine, which glows. 1792 Scotsman William Murdock heates coal to produce gas and uses it to create light. 1778-1829 Sir Humphry Davy is credited with inventing the electric arc, the process of breaking down gas electrically to produce a plasma discharge, which paves the way for the invention of the electric arc lamp. 1790 An improved oil lamp using an integral wick support that causes the oil to drip back into the reservoir is invented. It burns for longer and is regarded as a better lamp by the Americans. It is later called the Betty lamp or Betsy lamp. 1814 Gas street lighting is in general use in London. By 1817, Covent Garden, Drury Lane and the Lyceum theatres are all lit by gas. By 1823, nearly 40,000 lamps have been installed in the city's streets. 1826 Englishman Thomas Drummond invents limelight. Intense illumination forms when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of lime, which can be raised to a white heat without melting. 1820 British scientist Warren de la Rue encloses a platinum coil in an empty tube and passes an electric current through it. Platinum proves too expensive for this design to be popularised. 1827 The friction match is invented in England by pharmacist John Walker. 1835 James Bowman Lindsay demonstrates an electric light at a public meeting in Dundee. But he is distracted by his other experiments and never perfects his invention. 1841 Frederick de Moleyns of England is granted the first patent for an incandescent lamp that uses powdered charcoal heated between two platinum wires. 1854 German inventor Heinrich Gobel develops the first 'modern' light bulb, which is a carbonised bamboo filament encased in a vacuum bottle to prevent oxidation. His lamps last for up to 400 hours. 1856 Heinrich Geissler, a glassblower and physicist, succeeds in obtaining a bluish glow from a gas sealed in a tube excited with an induction coil. This invention becomes the basis for fluorescent light. 1879 Thomas Alva Edison, born in Milan, Ohio, invents the most commercially viable incandescent lamp. The Edison Electric Light Company was formed a year earlier. 1926 Edmund Germer invents the fluorescent lamp with his co-workers. General Electric buys Germer's patent and popularises fluorescent lamps for commercial use in 1938.