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Limelight is a type of lamp, formerly used in stage lighting, in which light is produced by heating a block of lime to incandescence by means of an oxyhydrogen flame[1].


The limelight was invented[2] by the English scientist Goldsworthy Gurney in 1823 while heating various substances using oxyhydrogen blowpipes. In his 1823 publication he notes his observations and possible uses (it came to be used as stage lighting) of his discovery by stating, “The light from magnesia is so intense and powerful, that the eye can scarcely look on it during the operation of the instrument; and that from pure lime, is so astonishingly intense and powerful, that it cannot be borne by the eye at all, particularly when under a strong flame of from nine to ten inches in length. The light from lime is not unlike daylight in its appearance; I am confident that one of our largest theatres might be lighted by it with the most splendid effect; in fact, every other artificial light is thrown into shade before it.” Here is a diagram[3] of a limelight setup (calcium oxide is quicklime):

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Here is a photograph[4] of a limelight:

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Here is a lithograph[5] of Goldsworthy Gurney:

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  2. 2up, pages 294-295.
  5. ImagesUrl=/indexplus/image/M009975.html