It has ever been true since the advent of artificial light that the intellect has been largely nourished after the completion of the day’s work. The highly developed artificial lighting of the present time may account for much of the vast industry of publication. Books, magazines, and newspapers owe much to convenient and inexpensive artificial light, for without it fewer hours would be available for recreation and advancement through reading. Schools, libraries, and art museums may be attended at night for the betterment of the human race. The immortal Lincoln, it is said, gained his early education largely by the light of the fireplace. But all were not endowed with the persistence of Lincoln, so that illiteracy was more common in his day than in the present age of adequate illumination.
The theatrical stage not only depends for its effectiveness upon artificial light but owes its existence and development largely to this agency. In the moving-picture theater, pictures are projected upon the screen by means of it and even the production of the pictures is independent of daylight. These and a vast number of recreational activities owe much, and in some cases their existence, to artificial light.
Not many centuries ago the streets at night were overrun by thieves and to venture outdoors after dark was to court robbery and even bodily harm. In these days of comparative safety it is difficult to realize the influence that abundant illumination has had in increasing the safety of life and property. Maeterlinck in his poetical drama, “The Bluebird,” appropriately has made Light the faithful companion of mankind. The Palace of Night, into which Light is not permitted to enter, is the abode of many evils. Thus the poet has played upon the primitive instincts of the impressiveness of light and darkness.
By combining the symbolism of light, color, and darkness with the instincts which have been inherited by mankind from its superstitious ancestry of the age of mythology, another field of application of artificial light is opened. Light has gradually assumed such attributes as truth, knowledge, progress, enlightenment. Throughout the early ages light was more or less worshiped and thus artificial lights became woven in many religious ceremonies. Some of these have persisted to the present time. The great pageants of peace celebrations and world’s expositions appropriately feature artificial light. In drawing upon the potentiality of the expressiveness and impressiveness of light and color, artificial light is playing a major part. Doubtless the future generations will be entertained by gorgeous symphonies of light. Experiments are performed in this direction now and then, and it is reasonable to expect that after many centuries of cultivation of the appreciation of light-symphonies, these will take a place among the arts. The elaborate and complicated music of the present time is appreciated by civilized nations only after many centuries of slow cultivation of taste and understanding.
Light-therapy is to-day a distinct science and art. The germicidal action of light-rays and of some of the invisible rays which ordinarily accompany the luminous rays is well proved. Wounds are treated effectively and water is sterilized by the ultraviolet radiant energy in modern artificial illuminants.
Thousands of lighthouses, light-ships, and light-buoys are scattered along sea-coasts, rivers, and channels. They guide the wheelman and warn the lookout of shoals and reefs. Some of these send forth flashes of light whose intensities are measured in millions of candle-power. Many are unattended for days and even months. These powerful lights dominated by automatic mechanisms have replaced the wood-fires which were maintained a few centuries ago upon certain prominent points.
Signal-lights now guide the railroad train through the night. A burning flare dropped from the rear of a train keeps the following train at a safe distance. Huge search-lights penetrate the night air for many miles. When these are equipped with shutters, a code may be flashed from one ship to another or between the vessel and land. A code from a powerful search-light has been read a hundred miles away because the flashes were projected upon a layer of high clouds and were thus visible far beyond the horizon.