15 March 2016

'Science, gentlemen, is of infinitely more importance to a state than may at first sight appear possible': The Life and Work of Humphry Davy (1778-1829)

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UCL, London UK

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This talk will trace Davy's career from provincial obscurity as an apothecary's apprentice in Penzance, through to Superintendent of the Medical Pneumatic Institution in Bristol, to metropolitan fame as Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution and later as President of the Royal Society of London. In the course of this trajectory, Davy, amongst much else, wrote poetry, discovered the physiological effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), systematically researched on electro-chemistry (a term he coined), discovering and naming sodium and potassium in the process, invented the miners' gauze safety lamp, developed a chemical method of unrolling the papyri excavated at Herculaneum and electro-chemically disabled the Royal Navy. As he appreciated, but tried to play down except when it suited him, much of his work stemmed from immediate practical demands including those of the state which will be a major theme of this illustrated talk.

Day 1 - 15th March 2016

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Venue and Contact


Department of Chemistry
University College London
20 Gordon Street
London, WC1H 0AJ

Tel: +44 (0) 20 7598 1594

Email: communications@soci.org

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Additional Info


Prof Frank James, UCL