History of Glass Windows and Lighting


Lighting and Glass Windows Meet

Since the moment man discovered fire, he has been lighting his way through the darkness and illuminating his dwellings. The ability to perform tasks after sunset was instrumental in survival through the ages. Venturing out of a cave to build a home meant the ability to allow the sunshine into the structure through holes in the walls, but not much light found its way inside.

Covering a window with an animal hide, cloth, or wood helped keep out the elements, but the biggest impact on how we live today was the invention of glass-making. Glass beads dating as far back as 35,000 BC were found in Mesopotamia, and over the centuries glass-making evolved into uses that changed the world and how we live.

The Romans discovered how to cover a hole in the wall with glass: these small, thick glass windows were no more than blown glass jars flattened into sheets that formed striation patterns and provided an obscured, hazy view. Technology developed over the centuries, leading to blowing one side of a glass cylinder to make thinner rectangular panes.

The elite among the European society prided themselves on their expensive mullioned windows, originally used to support the building, but they added glass for a new dimension. Not until the 1200s was stained glass used widely to add an important component to the Romanesque design, which only survives in churches today.

The technique of blowing spheres was improved when Venice developed a way of swinging the spheres to form cylinders that were cut while hot and flattened into sheets. Spinning the spheres until they flattened became popular in the mid-1800s. The industrial age and the invention of plate glass-making it became possible to produce the floor-to-ceiling windows of today. Early glass windows did keep the elements out and fill the building with light during the day, but the flame required to light a home at night also carried with it the danger of house fires.

Changing technology for lighting a house was a vast as making the glass to cover the windows. The first known lamp dates back to 70,000 BC and is thought to have burned moss dipped in animal fat. The Greeks perfected indoor lighting with the wick, and in the 1930s-gas lighting chased the shadows away. With the invention of electricity, the light bulb replaced the flame for illuminating the darkness and mankind hasn’t looked back. Bringing light into the home, and keeping out the elements and wildlife, brought humans into the modern world.