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Limelight diagram.svg

Limelight is a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. An intense illumination is created when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide),[1] which can be heated to 2572 °C before melting. The light is produced by a combination of incandescence and candoluminescence. Although it has long since been replaced by electric lighting, the term has nonetheless survived, as someone in the public eye is still said to be "in the limelight."


The limelight effect was discovered in the 1820s by Goldsworthy Gurney,[2] based on his work with the "oxy-hydrogen blowpipe," credit for which is normally given to Robert Hare. In 1825, a Scottish engineer, Thomas Drummond (1797–1840), saw a demonstration of the effect by Michael Faraday and realized that the light would be useful for surveying. Drummond built a working version in 1826, and the device is sometimes called the Drummond Light after him.

Limelight was first used in public in the Covent Garden Theatre in London in 1837 and enjoyed widespread use in theatres around the world in the 1860s and 1870s. Limelights were employed to highlight solo performers in the same manner as modern followspots.[3] Limelight was replaced by electric arc lighting in the late19th century.

See also


  1. ^ Chemical of the Week - Lime
  2. ^ Limelight - Leeds University, accessed 18 July 2008
  3. ^ Reid, Francis (2001). The Stage Lighting Handbook (Stage and Costume). U.K: A & C Black Publishers Ltd; 6Rev Ed edition (31 May 2001). pp. 1224 pages. ISBN 0713653965. 

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