Limelight diagram.svg
A homemade limelight made by heating calcium hydroxide in a stove burner. It is not as bright as a real limelight.

Limelight (also known as calcium light)[1] 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),[2] which can be heated to 2572 °C 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 Although it has long since been replaced by electric lighting, the term has nonetheless survived, as someone in the public eye is still said to be “in the limelight.”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,[3][4] 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[citation needed] 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.[5] Limelights were employed to highlight solo performers in the same manner as modern followspots (spotlights).[6] Limelight was replaced by electric arc lighting in the late 19th century.

See also


  1. ^ James R. Smith (2004) San Francisco's Lost Landmarks, Quill Driver Books
  2. ^ Chemical of the Week - Lime
  3. ^ Limelight - Leeds University, accessed 18 July 2008
  4. ^ Faraday, Michael; James, Frank A. J. L (1999). The Correspondence of Michael Faraday. p. 11. ISBN 9780863412516. 
  5. ^ Almqvist, Ebbe (2003). History of industrial gases. pp. 72–73. ISBN 9780306472770. 
  6. ^ Reid, Francis (2001). The Stage Lighting Handbook (Stage and Costume). U.K: A & C Black Publishers Ltd; 6Rev Ed edition (31 May 2001). pp. 1224 pages. ISBN 0713653965. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • limelight — lime light , n. (Theat.) That part of the stage upon which the limelight is cast, usually where the most important action is progressing or where the leading player or players are placed and upon which the attention of the spectators is therefore …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Limelight — ist der englische Name für Rampenlicht in der übertragenen Bedeutung des Wortes, den Film Rampenlicht, das auch als Bühnenbeleuchtung verwendete Drummondsche Licht sowie der Name einer britischen Heavy Metal Band. Außerdem ist das Limelight ein… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • limelight — ► NOUN 1) (the limelight) the focus of public attention. 2) an intense white light produced by heating lime in an oxyhydrogen flame, formerly used in theatres …   English terms dictionary

  • limelight — [līm′līt΄] n. 1. a brilliant light created by the incandescence of lime, formerly used in theaters to throw an intense beam of light upon a particular part of the stage, a certain actor, etc. 2. the part of a stage where a limelight or spotlight… …   English World dictionary

  • limelight — index publicity Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • limelight — 1826, popular name for DRUMMOND LIGHT (Cf. Drummond light), a brilliant light created by the incandescence of LIME (Cf. lime) (n.1); adopted for lighthouses and later for the Victorian stage, where it illuminated the principal actors, hence the… …   Etymology dictionary

  • limelight — [n] public attention eminence, exposure, fifteen minutes of fame*, focus of attention, glare, hype*, media attention, photo opportunity, prominence, public eye, public interest, public notice, public recognition, renown, spotlight; concept 261… …   New thesaurus

  • limelight — noun VERB + LIMELIGHT ▪ grab, hog, steal ▪ She accused her co star of trying to hog the limelight. ▪ enjoy ▪ seek ▪ …   Collocations dictionary

  • limelight — limelighter, n. /luym luyt /, n. 1. Theat. a. (formerly) a lighting unit for spotlighting the front of the stage, producing illumination by means of a flame of mixed gases directed at a cylinder of lime and having a special lens for concentrating …   Universalium

  • Limelight — Luz de escenario. El Limelight es un tipo de luz de escenario, que se utilizó en teatros y escenarios musicales en el siglo XIX. Funciona cuando una llama de oxihidrógeno se proyecta sobre una malla cilíndrica de cal viva (óxido de calcio),[1] …   Wikipedia Español

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