Sir Humphrey Davy

In Chemistry there are many very important chemists. One is Sir Humphry Davy. Davy was born on December 17, 1778 in Penzance, Cornwall, England.

He went to school in Penzance and in Truro. In 1794 his father died, to help his family financially he got a job as an apprentice to a surgeon. The surgeon’s name was J. Binghan Borlarse.

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In 1797 Davy became interested in Chemistry. So in 1778 he became superintendent of the Medical Pneumatic Institution of Bristol. This organization was devoted to the study of the medical value of different gases, it was here that Davy first made his reputation. He discovered the effects of nitrous oxide, which is now known as laughing gas.

Davy breathed 16 quarts of the gas in seven minutes and became completely intoxicated. He had no idea that forty-five years later it would be used as an anesthetic by dentists. Davy’s next discoveries were in the field of electrochemistry. He found that if he passed electricity through some substances then it would decompose.

This process was later called electrolysis. Through electrolysis, Davy eventually discovered magnesium, calcium, strontium, and barium in 1808. In 1810 Davy showed that muriatic or marine acid was a compound only of hydrogen and chlorine, and contained no oxygen. Davy also made some advances in Iodine.

Davy first made iodine pentoxide, a colorless, odorless, crystalline substance of high density in 1815. Davy also developed the method for the decomposition of silicates into silica by treatment with HCI. In 1802, Thomas Wedgwood and Sir Humphry Davy published a paper called ” An Account of a Method of Copying Paintings on Glass, and Making Profiles, by the Agency of Light upon Nitrates of Silver.” The pictures made by this process were very temporary.

As soon as the negatives were removed the pictures turned black. Davy also invented the miner’s safety helmet. The lamp on the safety helmet would burn safety and light the way even when there was an explosive mixture in the air. Davy didn’t patent the lamp.

This lead to a false claim that George Stephenson invented it, not Sir Humphry Davy. Davy received the accomplishment of being knighted just three days before he married a rich widow. Her name was Jan Apreece. In 1827, Davy became seriously ill.

He became ill because of inhaling to many gases over the years. So he moved to Rome to live a peaceful life. While living in Rome, he had a heart attack and died on May 29, 1829 in Geneva, Switzerland.

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Sir Humphrey Davy. (2018, Jun 07). Retrieved from