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International Day of Light sees Worldwide Success

On 16 May 2018 the first International Day of Light celebrated the vital role of light and related technologies in science, culture and art, education and sustainable development. More than 600 events were held in 87 countries reaching hundreds of thousands of people, and a spectacular afternoon and evening celebration was also held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. 

The event at UNESCO headquarters was inaugurated by the Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azouley who highlighted the important role of light sciences in sustainable development, and who also stressed how UNESCO was delighted to continue strengthening its collaboration with the international scientific community around the important theme of light. The celebration at UNESCO included a wide range of presentations, including two talks by Nobel Laureates, and two roundtables that saw discussion of topics such as the importance of light in science and culture, and the need for improved science-policy dialogue.  A special message in support of the International Day of Light was received from the International Space Station, and teacher-student representatives from one of UNESCO’s Associated Schools spoke on the importance of UNESCO support for their learning activities. A live science show from Brussels Photonics showed hands-on the importance of optical fibre technology. 


Cultural events also marked the inaugural celebration, with exterior illumination of the UNESCO headquarters by Kari Kola, and an immersive light show by Nono Maya and OCUBO.  And in what was a first for UNESCO, artists, diplomats and scientists combined together to create a massive light-painting mural inside the UNESCO auditorium. The theme of light was also central to musical performances by soprano Katerina Mina, and indeed, she opened the celebrations with a new composition by Linda Lamon especially written in homage to Stephen Hawking. Accompanying the presentations in the auditorium was an exhibition from the Museum of Light in Mexico, which traced the impact of light on humanity through the ages.  Other exhibits included artistic works from the Light Painting World Alliance, a Virtual Reality demonstration, and the interactive light sculpture PYRAMIDION by Milène Guermont. For pictures from the event, please visit the UNESCO Flickr page.

The International Day of Light was widely celebrated worldwide with hands-on activities in schools, festivals, scientific conferences, light-painting installations, open labs, night-sky observations, workshops, competitions, online activities, lectures and more.  To illustrate the diversity of these activities, we can highlight a small selection:


  • The Parliaments of Sweden and the Republic of Korea organized events to commemorate the International Day of Light.

  • Signify (formerly known as Philips Lighting) announced the 'Light for Better Learning' Campaign which will light up over 90 schools around the world in partnership with UNESCO.

  • Ghana inaugurated its first Museum of Light and Light-based Technologies at the Museum of Science and Technology to mark the observation of International Day of Light.

  • UNESCO schools around the world joined the International Day of Light by organizing a range of educational activities.

  • The Auckland Harbour Bridge (New Zealand) was lit at 12.01 am on the 16 May, representing the first commemoration of the International Day of Light anywhere in the world.

“Together, we have made the first International Day of Light 16 May celebration a success,” says the IDL Steering Committee Chair John Dudley. “Now it is time to keep working together and start thinking about the 2019 edition to make this a celebration that will pave the way for the years to come.”  The enthusiasm for the International Day of Light goes well-beyond May 16th and different organizations are still organizing activities in the coming months. Check the IDL Event programme for more information about activities.


John Dudley                                

IDL 2018 Steering Committee Chair


Xiang Gu   

International Basic Sciences Programme



Jorge Rivero González

International Day of Light Secretariat & Press Officer

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