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. 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.