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Sir Humphry Davy : A Cornish professor of chemistry with a poetic turn who helped make science a popular fashion.
Sir Humphry Davy

Based on the Biographical note to Davy’s own ‘Consolations in Travel’, edited by Henry Morley.

Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), rather like the more recent American astronomer Carl Sagan, was not only an authority in his field, but a gifted communicator who inspired others to take an active interest in science.

AS a boy in Penzance, Humphry Davy delighted in legends and poetry, but he also had a knack for machinery, and spent hours in his grandfather’s dispensary fiddling about with chemicals.

“This boy” the surgeon said good-humoredly, “will blow us all into the air”.

Davy became a laboratory assistant in Bristol, where Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey encouraged his verse-making. But in 1801, at just twenty-three, he was appointed a Professor of Chemistry at the newly-established Royal Institution in London.

His lectures became crowded, fashionable events, raising the profile of scientific study and institutions. Soon he was in demand across Europe, receiving prestigious honours in Paris and Dublin, and a knighthood in 1812.

The coal industry rewarded him handsomely for his miner’s ‘safety-lamp’ in 1815, and Davy was raised to a Baronetcy and elected President of the Royal Society.

He himself, however, is said to have joked that his greatest discovery was his laboratory assistant, Michael Faraday.

Based on the Biographical note to Davy’s own ‘Consolations in Travel’, edited by Henry Morley.

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Picture: Via Wikimedia Commons. View original
Sir Humphry Davy, by Thomas Phillips, sometime before 1845.
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