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 the light in a strong beam.
b. the light so produced.
c. Chiefly Brit. a lighting unit, esp. a spotlight.
2. the center of public attention, interest, observation, or notoriety: He seems fond of the limelight.
[1820-30; LIME1 + LIGHT1]

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Early form of theatrical lighting.

The incandescent calcium light invented by Thomas Drummond in 1816 was first employed in a theatre in 1837 and was widely used by the 1860s. Its soft, brilliant light enabled it to be focused for spotlighting and to create effects such as sunlight and moonlight. The expression "in the limelight" referred to the most desirable acting area on the stage, the front and centre, which was illuminated by limelights. Electric lighting replaced limelight in the late 19th century.

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▪ theatre lighting
      first theatrical spotlight, also a popular term for the incandescent calcium light invented by Thomas Drummond in 1816. Drummond's light, which consisted of a block of calcium heated to incandescence in jets of burning oxygen and hydrogen, provided a soft, very brilliant light that could be directed and focussed. It was first employed in a theatre in 1837 and was in wide use by the 1860s. Its intensity made it useful for spotlighting and for the realistic simulation of effects such as sunlight and moonlight. Limelights placed at the front of the balcony could also be used for general stage illumination, providing a more natural light than footlights. The expression “in the limelight” originally referred to the most desirable acting area on the stage, the front and centre, which was brilliantly illuminated by limelights.

      The greatest disadvantage of limelight was that each light required the almost constant attention of an individual operator, who had to keep adjusting the block of calcium as it burned and to tend to the two cylinders of gas that fuelled it. Electric lighting in general and the electric arc spotlight replaced the limelight late in the 19th century.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

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