A retrospective view down the vista of centuries reveals by contrast the complexity with which artificial light is woven into human activities of the present time. Written history fails long before the primitive races are reached, but it is safe to trust the imagination to penetrate the fog of unwritten history and find early man huddled in his cave as daylight wanes. Impelled by the restless spirit of progress, this primitive being grasped the opportunity which fire afforded to extend his activities beyond the boundaries of daylight. The crude art upon the walls of his cave was executed by the flame of a smoking fagot. The fire on the ledge at the entrance to his abode became a symbol of home, as the fire on the hearth has symbolized home and hospitality throughout succeeding ages. The accompanying light and the protection from cold combined to establish the home circle. The ties of mated animals expanded through these influences to the bonds of family. Thus light was woven early into family life and has been throughout the ages a moralizing and civilizing influence. To-day the residence functions as a home mainly under artificial light, for owing to the conditions of living and working, the family group gathers chiefly after daylight has failed.
The human race was born in slavery, totally subservient to nature. The earliest primitive beings feasted or starved according to nature’s bounty and sweltered or shivered according to the weather. When night fell they sought shelter with animal instinct, for not only were activities almost completely curtailed by darkness but beyond its screen lurked many dangers. It is interesting to philosophize upon a distinction between a human being and the animal just below him in the scale, but it may serve the present purpose to distinguish the human being as that animal in whom there is an unquenchable and insatiable desire for independence. The effort to escape from the bondage of nature is not solely a human instinct; animals burrow or build retreats through the instinct of self-preservation. But this instinct in animals is soon satisfied, whereas in human beings it has been leading ever onward toward complete emancipation.
There is no study so profound as electricity. It is a marvel to the scientist as well as to the novice. It is simple in its manifestations, but most complex in its organization and in its ramifications. It has been shown that light, heat, magnetism and electricity are the same, but that they differ merely in their modes of motion.
First Historical Account.—The first historical account of electricity dates back to 600 years B. C. Thales of Miletus was the first to describe the properties of amber, which, when rubbed, attracted and repelled light bodies. The ancients also described what was probably tourmaline, a mineral which has the same qualities. The torpedo, a fish which has the power of emitting electric impulses, was known in very early times.