400,000 years ago, humans and Neanderthals created fire. This ignited a relationship between people and photons that changed the course of mankind—and continues to evolve to this day. Take a tour through the visual history of light.

Animal grease lamps, the arc light, moonlight towers, electric dynamo machines, fiber optic cables. Our past is filled with discoveries and inventions that have lit our way, warmed us, kept us safe, changed our waking hours and our cultures, entertained us, informed us, connected us, and blocked our view of the stars. In addition to the animated summary above, The Atlantic also lists these light inventions by era.

Next: Star Parties In Our National Parks, On Light Pollution: The End of Darkness, and What happened to the Milky Way?

Plus: Keeping the Flame Alight with the Last of the Lampists and the “Salvation Fish” Transform From Animal to Candle, The Story of Light, how to make a Moser Lamp, and how to build a light bulb.

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