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Reflections on the Last One Hundred Years of Lighting in Great Britain.

Reflections on the Last One Hundred Years of

Lighting in Great Britain

By David Loe and Rosemary McIntosh.


This book is a centenary celebration publication marking the founding of the Illuminating Engineering Society in Great Britain. Its subtitle makes clear its focus on that organization: "The Illuminating Engineering Society to The Society of Light and Lighting (1909- 2009)." Its foreword makes clear its intended tone: "... the publication (is) to be a memento of the first one hundred years of organized lighting, ranging from the birth of the IES in 1909 to its Centenary." Though claimed to have a very modest aim and "not be a serious history", the book presents valuable information, insights, and context for events that reveal the development of lighting in Great Britain, viewed through the prism of a history of an organization.

The presentation is informal and clear, proceeding chronologically through the century by way of small sections, often only a few paragraphs in length. No attempt is made to connect these sections into a seamless narrative and so the book has a conversational quality and is, as the first author makes clear in the foreword "a pot-pourri of events, and a reflection on people and developments that shaped the British lighting profession." Though larger issues are often described, the focus remains the Illuminating Engineering Society and the people who formed it, served it, promoted it, and changed it. Clearly the authors had access to many colleagues with long memories, to previously written reminiscences, and to the records of the organizations they describe. The book benefits from these details.


The century is broken into five chapters covering the years 1908-1909, 1910-1945, 1946-1978, 1979-2008, and the future. Considerable detail is presented in the first chapter about Leon Gaster, his publication "The Illuminating Engineer", and the important role he and it played in the establishment of the Illuminating Engineering Society. The parallel roles of Louis Marks, E. Levenworth Elliot, and "The Illuminating Engineer" in the United States, is striking.

This part of the book conveys the nature of lighting at the start of the 20th century, the wide variety of technologies involved, and the wide interests of the individuals who came together on that evening in November of 1909 to establish a new organization. Indeed, the cover of the first volume of Gaster's publication makes it clear that lighting was provided by an array of technologies: oil, gas, acetylene, electric arc, and electric incandescent sources.

The advancements of technology, standards, and the practice of illuminating engineering are detailed in the second chapter. During this period the British Illuminating Engineering Society began to produce two publications rather than just one ("The Illuminating Engineer"): "Transactions of the Society" and "Light and Lighting." The growth of the British lighting industry in the years between the two world wars is described in terms of technology (especially the development of the fluorescent lamp) and the expanding reach of the Illuminating Engineering Society beyond its London base.

During the time covered by the third and fourth chapters the development and founding of the British journal "Lighting Research and Technology" in 1969 is described, as well as the establishment of the Research Centre at Capenhurst in Cheshire by The Electricity Council. The Research Centre was responsible for much of the lighting research that resulted in Electricity Council and Illuminating Engineering Society publications and standards of the time.

Of particular interest in these chapters is the candid discussion of the events and individuals that eventually led to the merger of the Illuminating Engineering Society with the Institute of Heating and Ventilating Engineers to form the Chartered Institution of Building Services (CIBS) and eventually, after a row with The Council of Engineering Institutions about the name of the organization, The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). The authors leave no doubt as to how difficult this merger was, how uncertain the outcome, and how great the cost. With this merger, the Illuminating Engineering Society became the Lighting Division of the CIBSE, the publication of Light and Lighting ceased, and membership narrowed and decreased.

Chapter four ends with, among other things, a description of how and why the Lighting Division was established as a separate company, though owned by the CIBSE, and renamed The Society of Light and Lighting. Included here is a summary of the later publications of the Society, a list of the recipients of its highest honor, The Lighting Award, and a list of presidents of the organization since its founding in 1909.

This book recounts in a detailed and interesting way the role that a society of lighting professionals has had in the development of Britain's lighting industry, and thus is a valuable addition to the written history of the lighting professions.

doi: 10.1582/LEUKOS.2009.06.02002
COPYRIGHT 2009 Illuminating Engineering Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:DiLaura, D.L.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2009
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