Traveling with the Atom

Allegheny College

(compiled by Dr.Glen E. Rodgers)

Revised April 2009



An excellent example of the miner's safety lamp invented by Davy
Humphry Davy
English Chemist
Sir Humphry Davy, 1803, 
painted by Henry Howard, 
National Portrait Gallery, London

Contribution to the Development of the Atomic Concept
As a young man, Davy became the Director of Thomas Beddoes' Pneumatic Institute in Bristol. One of Davy's first scientific accomplishments was his discovery of the physiological effects of nitrous oxide, which became known as "laughing gas".  As part of this work he also characterized the various oxides of nitrogen with great care. After his appointment as a lecturer at the Royal Institution in London he used a voltaic pile (the first true battery developed by Alessandro Volta) to electrolyze various molten metal oxides to isolate potassium and sodium (1807) and then calcium, barium, strontium, and magnesium (1808).  He also named aluminum, boron, chlorine, and iodine.  In 1815 Davy invented his miner's safety helmet. The lamp of this safety helmet would burn safely and emit light even when there was an explosive mixture of methane and air present. 

Web Sources of Biographical Information
Woodrow Wilson Biography Page
BBC Biography
Davy, Sir Humphry, Baronet
(an exceptional site by Dr. Eugenii Katz.  It contains a great deal of information and  many colored images)

Selected Biographical Books, Sections of Books, and Articles
Full biographical information on Sacks' book Uncle Tungsten pp 117-131
Full biographical information on Asimov Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology pp 284-286
Young Humphry Davy: The Making of an Experimental Chemist, June Z. Fullmer, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia (2000) Humphry Davy, Science and Power, David Knight, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1992).
The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy, edited by his brother, John Davy with an introduction by David Knight, University of Durham , Thoemmes Press, 9  Volume(s) (2001). Humphry Davy's Sexual Chemistry, by Jan Golinski. Published in Configurations 7 (1999), 15-41
© The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Some Scientific/Historical Traveling Sites
Statue* of Humphry Davy with a scientifically accurate summary of his career (2) Market Jew Street in Penzance, Cornwall, England (only a few miles from Land's End)
Buildings of the former Thomas Beddoes' Pneumatic Institute, Stop No. 13 on the Hotwell Heritage Trail No. 6 Dowry Square served as Davy's laboratory and residence; No. 7 was the ward for bed-patients
Gallery of equipment of scientists of the Royal Institution (2) Upstairs Gallery, Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, off Piccadilly
Memorial Plaque to Davy and Thomas Beddoes, who appointed Davy to one of his first positions (4) Beddoes' house in Rodney Place, Bristol, England  (Also see Famous Cornish People website)
* see following Rodgers link to scientific/historical sites for further information.
(1) Taken from The Scientific Traveler, Charles Tanford and Jacqueline, John Wiley & Sons, NY (1992).
(2) Taken from A Travel Guide to Scientific Sites of the British Isles, Charles Tanford and Jacqueline Reynolds, John Wiley & Sons, NY (1995).
(3) Taken from Guide of Eurpoean Museums with collections on History of Chemistry, compiled by Jan W. van Spronsen, Federation of European Societies, Antwerp (1996)
(4) Our Scientific Heritage, An A-Z of Great Britain and Ireland, Trevor I. Williams, Sutton Publishing (1996).

Link to Dr. Rodgers' Scientific/Historical Site on Davy.
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