The oldest recorded documentation of foxfire is from 382 B.C., by Aristotle, whose notes refer to a light that, unlike fire, was cold to the touch. The Roman thinker Pliny the Elder also mentioned glowing wood in olive groves.
Foxfire was used to illuminate the needles on the barometer and the compass of Turtle, an early submarine. This is commonly thought to have been suggested by Benjamin Franklin; a reading of the correspondence from Benjamin Gale, however, shows that Benjamin Franklin was only consulted for alternative forms of lighting when the cold temperatures rendered the foxfire inactive.
After many more literary references to foxfire by early scientists and naturalists, its cause was discovered in 1823. The glow emitted from wooden support beams in mines was examined, and it was found that the luminescence came from fungal growth.