In 1931, George Cowardine, an automotive engineer, developed a theoretical design for balancing weights using levers, cranks and springs. At the time he was developing the mechanism for automotive suspensions but realised that it could be applied to other fields. He saw that it could be used to advantage in the design of a task lamp. He used special springs with a constant tension which were produced by the Terry Spring Company, with whom he later entered into a license agreement as the interest and demand for the innovation grew.
So, in 1933 Cowardine launched the first four spring anglepoise lamp, a lamp that combined flexibility with perfect balance. This lamp was seen as too industrial for domestic use so was re-designed with 3 springs, this lamp, the Anglepoise original 1227 has been refined over the years but is still essentially the classic lamp used today.
The iconic lamp's design lends itself to both practical and artistic use. During the Second World War it was produced for bombers, one of which survived under water for about four decades and was still in working condition. The plane and lamp can be found in Brooklands museum, Surrey, whilst other early examples of the lamp have been displayed in the Victoria and Albert museum.
The lamp's other incarnations include, in 2005, a giant version, commissioned by the Roald Dahl and story museum to replicate the lamp found in his writing hut. Three were produced, the other two for Tim Burton, the film director and for a design exhibition. This version was later put into volume production. In 2014 the Sir Kenneth Grange type 75 lamp received the touch of Paul Smith, his use of colour highlighted its no frills, mechanical functionality. In 2015 he produced version 2, his modernist colour palette breathing new life into this octogenarian lamp.
The image of an anglepoise lamp has also been immortalised and lives on for future generations through the Pixar production company logo. This was first used in a computer generated animation in 1986, in which a large lamp watches a small lamp play with a ball.