The precursor to today’s neon lights was invented in 1855, when German physicist Heinrich Geissler began experimenting with sealing gases, such as mercury vapor, in vacuum tubes and exposing them to electricity to create a glow. This was before neon itself had been isolated.
Neon is the fourth-most abundant element in the universe, but not on Earth. Only 0.0018 percent of Earth’s atmosphere is neon gas, according to the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Laboratory.
The first neon lamp to go on display lit up in Paris on Dec. 11, 1910, according to Neon Library, a site run by neon artist Skip DeBack. The first neon sign ever sold commercially was bought in 1912 by a Paris barber, according to DeBack.