What is an ARC LIGHT?


The first electric bulbs were not invented by Thomas Edison. They were known as arc lights, or arc lamps. They produced a bright light by creating an electrical "arc."  They were invented in the first decade of the 19th century, and produce light by pushing high voltage through two, almost touching electrodes.  

They were bright, and eventually were used to illuminate the darkness of cities.  Because they were so bright (and loud), these lights were placed on large metal towers and were called "moonlight towers." The cities of Aurora and Elgin had moonlight towers. Several still exist in Austin, Texas.  

An arclight illuminating Madison Square, New York City, 1882.

They were attached to trains and used in lighthouses. Theaters were quick to adopt the arclight for performances. The Eiffel Tower was first illuminated by arclights. When motion pictures were invented, the arclight powered projectors, giving motion pictures that flicker quality. 

Even after the introduction of Edison's incandescent light bulbs, the arc light continued to find a home in cinemas. During the two World Wars, arclights were indispensible as searchlights, lighting up the night sky in search of bombers on raids. They illuminated runways.

The arclight was bright and powerful. It was also hot, and at times dangerous. If you've ever seen a movie about a mad scientist, you have seen arclights in action. 

The basic function of the arclight was to illuminate. Therefore, we have chosen the "arclight" to highlight a series of programs coming to the Academic Resource Center, otherwise known as the Hersey ARC. 


The A.R.C.Light Film Series will bring classic films, cult films and culturally important films to students, staff and community members.

The A.R.C.Light Podcast will illuminate the stories of our community.