The Argand lamp
was invented and patented in 1780 by Aimé Argand
. It greatly improved on the home lighting oil lamp
of the day by producing a light equivalent to about 6 to 10 candles
. It had a circular wick
mounted between two cylindrical metal tubes so that air channeled through the center of the wick, as well as outside of it. A cylindrical chimney, in early models of ground glass and sometimes tinted, surrounded the wick, steadying the flame and improving the flow of air. It used a supply of good liquid oil, such as spermaceti whale oil
, supplied from a separate reservoir as the fuel. Aside from the improvement in brightness, the more complete combustion of the wick and oil required much less frequent snuffing (trimming) of the wick.
The lamps quickly displaced all other varieties of oil lamps and were manufactured in a great variety of decorative forms. They were somewhat more costly than the old oil lamps because of their increased complexity, so they were adopted first by the well-to-do, but soon spread to the middle class and eventually the less well-off as well. It was the lamp of choice until about 1850 when kerosene lamps, which used a flat wick in a cup with a bellied chimney, were introduced. Kerosene was considerably cheaper than whale oil, and many Argand lamps were refitted to burn kerosene.
In France, they are known as "Quinquets" after Antoine-Arnoult Quinquet, a pharmacist in Paris, who stole the idea from Argand and popularized it in France. He is sometimes credited, in France, with the addition of the glass chimney to the lamp.
- History of the lamp
- Wolfe, John J., Brandy, Balloons, & Lamps: Ami Argand, 1750-1803 Southern Illinois University, (1999) ISBN 0-8093-2278-1.
A more technical explanation of the workings of an Argand lamp