Light fantastic

The Material World
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Indy Lifestyle Online
They light up many of our desks at home and are much favoured by students, designers and night duty nurses. An Anglepoise lamp even aided Harrison Ford and Sean Connery to decipher codes in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, and was an indispensable prop to the boffins in James Bond movies.

Automobile engineer George Carwardine had a company in Bath during the 1920s when he first came up with the idea of an "arm" which was able to move through three dimensions. But it was 1932 before he finally realised its most suitable application.

The secret of the lamp's flexibility lies in its four tightly coiled springs, two at the base and two at the elbow, which give it balance and direction at the touch of a finger.

By 1934, having teamed up with Herbert Terry and Sons, of Redditch, Carwardine's Anglepoise lamp was under production. In its first year it sold 1,299, rising to 3,118 a year later.

Carwardine continued to develop the principle and applied it to microphones, loudspeakers and mirrors. He even tried it out on a golf bag.

As its success grew, the company obtained patents in all the Commonwealth countries and most of Europe with one commercially disastrous omission - Norway. As a result, enterprising businessman Jac Jocobsen developed his own version. In 1952, he took it to America and made $1million in eight years. As other patents gradually expired, he introduced his Luxo lamp to successive markets in a piecemeal fashion.

This explains why, when you see something that looks like an Anglepoise lamp, the chances are it isn't. Angelpoise Ltd only manufactures around 200,000 lamps a year, but would claim its product is superior to the cheaper Far East imitations currently sitting on our desks.

Anglepoise's most popular model is the Apex 90 three-spring version which retails at around pounds 45. A limited edition of the original 1227 model, of which 2,500 are still assembled largely by hand in the family-run Redditch factory, is available for pounds 140.

As for Carwardine, his lamp remains his most lasting contribution to the world of inventions. He worked for the MoD on secret projects during the war in the grounds of his Bath home. But after his death in 1947, not even his widow Kathleen was able to shed light on what he'd been doing for years in his garden hut

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