Limelight (also known as calcium light) is a type of stage lighting once used in theatres and music halls. An intense illumination is created when an oxyhydrogen flame is directed at a cylinder of quicklime (calcium oxide), which can be heated to 2,572 °C (4,662 °F) before melting. The light is produced by a combination of incandescence and candoluminescence. Although it has long since been replaced by electric lighting, the term has nonetheless survived, as someone in the public eye is still said to be “in the limelight.” The actual lights are called limes, a term which has been transferred to electrical equivalents.
The limelight effect was discovered in the 1820s by Goldsworthy Gurney, based on his work with the "oxy-hydrogen blowpipe," credit for which is normally given to Robert Hare. In 1825, a Scottish engineer, Thomas Drummond (1797–1840), saw a demonstration of the effect by Michael Faraday and realized that the light would be useful for surveying. Drummond built a working version in 1826, and the device is sometimes called the Drummond Light after him.
Limelight was first used in public in the Covent Garden Theatre in London in 1837 and enjoyed widespread use in theatres around the world in the 1860s and 1870s. Limelights were employed to highlight solo performers in the same manner as modern followspots (spotlights). Limelight was replaced by electric arc lighting in the late 19th century.
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