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Digital Projects, The Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry, Portrait Collection, Sir Humphry Davy, 1778-1829

The Oesper Collections in the History of Chemistry, Portrait Collection, University of Cincinnati
Sir Humphry Davy, 1778-1829

Humphry Davy was born in 1778 in Penzance, England, and was largely self-educated. Following a brief apprenticeship to an apothecary, he took a position at Thomas Beddoes' "Pneumatic Institute" in Clifton, where his job was to investigate the medicinal properties of various gases. It was this work that led to his discovery of the physiological and psychological properties of laughing gas, as described in his book, Researches Chemical and Philosophical, Chiefly Concerning Nitrous Oxide, first published in 1800. In 1801 Davy was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the recently established Royal Institution in London, where he conducted a series of brilliant electrochemical investigations leading to the isolation of the elements sodium, potassium, calcium, barium, strontium, and boron, and to speciulations on the electrical origins of chemical affinity. He also established the elemental nature of chlorine, proposed the hydrogen theory of acidity, and invented the miner's safety lamp. In 1812 Davy was knighted and in 1820 he served as President of the Royal Society. He died prematurely in 1829 at the age of 51.

  • Works about Davy in the Oesper Collections
  • Works by Davy in the Oesper Collections

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