​Almanac: Limelight

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: November 9th, 1825, 189 years ago today . . . a day of enlightenment any way you look at it.

For that was the day the Scottish inventor Thomas Drummond successfully tested a new kind of lamp.

Drummond's light used the white-hot incandescent flame from burning calcium oxide (more commonly known as lime), and it used a parabolic reflector to direct that light.

Placed on an Irish mountaintop that November 9th, Drummond's light was plainly seen some 67 miles away by an enthusiastic observer, who wrote: "Your light has been most brilliant tonight for three hours and twenty minutes."

Drummond's hopes of adapting the new lamp for lighthouses proved impractical, but theaters back in those days before electricity quickly embraced it.

Stage managers particularly liked the fact that the brilliant beam could be focused onto certain parts of the stage, as well as onto particular actors.

Eventually, of course, Drummond's lime-powered lamps were replaced by the electric stage lights we know today.

Still, gone though Drummond's lights may be, they are hardly forgotten. To this day, we speak of someone who is the center of attention as being in the limelight.