Combining gas extracted from coal into a lantern, then into lights, allowed for non-candle bright lights. This literally lit up the industrial era. Factories could function at night and people could stay awake longer. Gas lighting vastly increased productivity.
In 1667, Thomas Shirley published a report describing flammable gas naturally seeping from coal. In 1684, John Clayton produced coal gas by distilling coal and stored it in bladders. He published his findings with the Royal Society but there is no record he saw any utility value.
In 1792, Murdoch, the lead engineer for Boulton & Watt, realized the extracted coal gas could be used for lighting. He created a coal-gas fired lantern, walking around at night with to show off his magical light.
After learning to extract gas from coal and creating his lantern, Murdoch lit up his house with gas lighting, the first of its kind, attracting gawkers from all over. He went on to light the exterior of Boulton & Watt headquarters. Finally, Boulton & Watt commissioned Murdoch to light up a factory so that it might more efficiently run at night. Despite his success, Watt then closed the lighting business.
Some historians suggest Murdoch worked as a quiet renegade, collaborating with Richard Trevithick (they lived close together) on the high-pressure steam engines that Watt despised. Professional jealousy or distrust could explain why Watt shut down the Boulton & Watt gas extraction and lighting business despite that it was a natural extension. Lighting, like steam engines, used coal and added utility to many of the same customers.