Artificial Sunlight, Solar Simulator
With all the bad press the sun has been getting lately, one often overlooks its physical and psychological benefits. We flock to the sun when time and weather permit—and this behavior proves to be based, in part, on instinct. Niels Ryberg Finsen, the Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine in 1903, discovered the medical benefits of the sun through his desire to receive more sunlight—“…I suffered from anemia and tiredness, and since I lived in a house facing the north, I began to believe that I might be helped if I received more sun”1—and his
observations on how nature interacts with it. Coined from Helios, the Greek god of the sun, and tracing back to Hippocrates, Heliotherapy was not a new concept at the time of Finsen; however, Finsen pioneered artificial medical treatments in heliotherapy.2 Establishing the Finsen Institute in Copenhagen in 1896, Finsen used chemical rays in specific areas (the Finsen Lamp) to most notably treat lupus vulgaris (of which he won the Nobel for) “due to a bactericidal as well as a general stimulating effect on the tissues.”1 Also known as light therapy or phototherapy,
heliotherapy today is employed in similar fashion in dermatology to treat skin problems such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, among others.3 In psychology, heliotherapy proves to be a treatment option for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as exposure to natural sunlight dwindles during fall and winter. According to Mayo Clinic, “light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood, easing SAD symptoms.”4 Therapy is achieved through the presence of a light therapy box—or a source of artificial light which imitates natural sunlight.
1. “Niels Ryberg Finsen – Biographical.” Nobel Prizes and Laureates. Web. 23 Aug. 2013.
2. “Science Museum. Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine.” Heliotherapy. Web. 23 Aug. 2013.
3. “Phototherapy.” University of Conneticut Health Center: Department of Dermatology. Web. 23 Aug. 2013.
4. Staff, Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. “Light Therapy: Defi nition.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 Mar. 2013.
Web. 23 Aug. 2013. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/light-therapy/MY00195>.