Celebrating the History of Ultraviolet Light 

Here at CureUV, light is everything to us! Last year we celebrated 140 years (1877-2017) since the discovery of the use of UV light to kill illness causing bacteria. And since we just can’t seem to get enough of sharing the light, were celebrating the start of hopefully another decade of amazing UV innovation with some pretty amazing deals, like the one below!

Wall Mounted Air Purifier

When most people think UV light, they think tanning beds, glow sticks and crime scene investigations but in truth those UV light uses are really just the beginning of the amazing and powerful things that UV light can really do. A look back at the history of the discovery and use of UV light will say it all.[i] In truth the use of UV-C light technology is backed by a history of scientific innovation and discovery!

The Seen and Unseen

In the 17th Century Isaac Newton discovered prisms of light. By refracting light through glass prisms he discovered the visible range of light, from red to violet, the colors of the rainbow![ii] By the 1800’s Freidrich Williams Herscel, a German Astronomer, noticed that the temperature of light increased from the violet spectrum to the red spectrum. He decided to test the temperature of the invisible light on either side of that spectrum and found that just beyond the red end of the spectrum, the light, the invisible light had a higher temperature. And so just like that Ultra-violet light was born!

51 LED UV Flashlight


Want to check out more about the seen and unseen ability of UV light? Then check out our useful and handy UV flashlights – one scan with any of these  and you’ll be able to detect all the unseen germs that surround you more easily so that you can target and eliminate them.

Kill or be Killed – the death of ill causing bacteria

In 1877, two English scientists, Downes and Blunt, accidentally discovered that when they placed sugar water in the sun no bacteria grew but when they placed it in the shade bacteria grew. This was “one of the most influential discoveries in photobiology” and was the beginning of the use of UV light for germicidal application. Between 1885–1890, one scientist, Koch, noticed that different types of bacteria had different levels of sensitivity to light exposure and eventually he showed that when exposed to the light the bacteria that caused TB was lethally destroyed. But it was only in 1892, that Marshall Ward figured out that, it was really only the invisible ultraviolet range of light that killed the TB bacteria. 

Riding the UV-C wave

In 1904 the relative intensity of radiation was quantified as a function of wavelength. The size of waves in the UV radiation spectrum are measured in nanometres. A nanometre is 1 billionth of a metre! Really, that’s more than just miniscule! So the spectrum of UV radiation is between 100nm and 400nm in length, the smallest of wavelengths there is. Just a year later, in 1905 the most effective wavelengths was found to be UV-C with a peak germicidal effectiveness between 226.5nm and 328.7nm followed by UV-B, UV-A and then visible light. And so UV-C emerged as the most effective radiation.

So powerful is this radiation that we’ve been able to harness it and create nifty useful devices like this handheld sanitizer, that you can easily transport and use just about anywhere!



Turn the lights on

In 1906, two German scientist Kuch and Retschinsky managed to improve upon the standard glass lamps at the time and get more light output from a quartz glass tube. And so began the important and necessary aspect of lamp development so that we could eventually turn UV lights on with the most effective and efficient power.

Here at CureUV, this innovation in bulb development has allowed us to become the leading experts on UV bulbs. We've got just about any replacement bulb that you might need for any use. 



One by one….

From the late 1920’s scientists began to catalogue the range of bacteria which were killed by UV light – bacteria that causes Staph infections, and E.coli illnesses were found to be killed by UV light at a wavelength of UV light 265nm. In 1935 Wells pioneered the use of UV against airborne infections. Wells tested UV light on aerosolized bacteria successfully and efficiently killing it. One by one scientists began to discover which microbes were most vulnerable. 

Medical Use expansions – Measles and TB

The late 1930’s and early 40’s saw the expansion of medical use experimentation and application. In 1936 UV light was applied to disinfect hospital operating room air at Duke University Hospital. And in 1937 Wells continued his experiments, this time attempting to use UV to treat measles among children in Philadelphia with relative success. By 1943 UV was officially accepted as a method of disinfection by the Council on Physical Therapy and studies on the impact and effect of UV continued. From Late 1950’s to 1960 a medical student tested UV in hospital TB wards, well elsewhere another medic used UV to prevent the spread of influenza among TB patients. The results and effects of these studies were ground breaking!

Ultimate Mobile Room Sterilizer

A case in point is our powerful Ultimate Room UVC Surface sanitizer, which is particularly suitable for use in medical rooms, clinics, dentists and hospitals, but also suitable to use in homes and offices. 


 How about some water?[iii]

By 1955 advances with UV technology in Switzerland and Austria resulted in the first reliable applications of UV light for disinfecting drinking water installed in water treatment plants. This tech has now advanced so that you can have UV treatments in your homes and on the go. 

SteriPEN Aqua Portable UV sterilizer

To see just how this could work for you, have a look at this neat handheld water purifier, compact and powerful!




A momentary decline

During the late 60’s and 70’s, following the initial break-through in medical use, the enthusiasm for UV light sources as an effective barrier against illness saw a decline. This was due to some failures in testing and experimentation, and also in the rise in use of antibiotics to treat infections. There were also concerns about the health effects of UV exposure and the environmental impact of ozone production.

A resurgence

But then in the late 1980’s, upon the unexpected resurgence of TB, there was renewed interest in the use of UV and as a result there was renewed interest to address the challenges that brought on the initial decline. Studies relating to the use of UV in various environments, the safety of UV use, the maintenance of UV fixtures and ozone lamps were conducted. 

Unlocking the potential!

From the 1990’s onward the commercial, industrial and domestic use of UV fixtures has grown exponentially – from air sanitizationsurface sanitation& water purification. Recognized bodies have since issued use guidelines. For example, in 2005 The CDC published a preliminary guideline regarding UV use.

Curing Chamber Variable Intensity

UV light has even transformed the world of industrial and chemical curing!  



Next time we’ll tell you a little more about the use of UV as a curing technique.  


[i] Nicholas G Reed (2010) ‘The History of Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation for Air Disinfection’ Viewpoint available at  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2789813/   

[ii] See Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement, Color Vision & Art, 2006 available at http://www.webexhibits.org/colorart/bh.html

[iii] See https://www.awwa.org/portals/0/files/publications/documents/samples/ultravioletdisinfectionhandbook.pdf