Sodium lamps were first used as street lighting in the 1930s, with their eerie yellow glow causing less light pollution than their mercury predecessors. The characteristic colour of sodium street lighting provoked a sharp reaction from writers, with the poet, John Betjeman, calling it ‘yellow vomit’. In later literature, sodium light is almost always used to invoke an atmosphere of urban unease. This 1950s General Electric Company lantern is fitted with a 35W SOX lamp that contains a piece of solid sodium inside a gas discharge tube. When the sodium is heated, it first emits a dim red light, then vaporises to generate that well-known yellow light.
PRIVATE COLLECTION OF SIMON CORNWELL, UK
About the Artist
SODIUM STREET LAMP, GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF SIMON CORNWELL, UK