“... the flash of a neon light that split the night/And touched the sound of silence."
Paul Simon, "The Sound of Silence"
Following the invention of the electric lightbulb by Edison and Swan in 1878, the race was on to improve its design and performance. French chemical engineer, Georges Claude (1870-1960) was working on an invention to extract oxygen from air, for use in hospitals and welding, and his experiments resulted in his discovery of the noble .gases—helium, argon, krypton, xenon, radon, and neon—so called because they do not react with other elements.
Aware of the race for the perfect lightbulb, Claude experimented by passing an electric current through tubes containing different noble gases at low pressure. In 1902 he discovered that neon gas, with only a small current, produced an intense orange glow. He was unimpressed by the amount of light it produced, but Jacques Fonseque, an advertising agent, more...