And that brings us right up to the present day. There are now almost 50 synchrotrons around the world, and they are used to study everything, from medicine, to nanotechnology, to advanced engineering. These powerful machines exploit the vast potential of light, and hundreds of thousands of scientists visit synchrotrons each year to use the light in their experiments.
To celebrate all that light has given us, UNESCO has declared 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Diamond is one of many institutions, including Downing Street and CERN, celebrating the historic year with a host of activities and events.
But the story of light is not over yet; there’s still so much more to discover. Even today, scientists aren’t 100% sure about the nature of light itself: is it a wave or a particle? It appears to be both, behaving in strange ways that seem to elude the laws of physics. There’s still work to be done towards pinning down the characteristics of light and identifying the best ways we can harness it. But one thing is for certain: we owe almost everything we know about the world to bright light and science.