Humphry Davy

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Davy, Humphry


Born Dec. 17, 1778, in Penzance; died May 29, 1829, in Geneva. English chemist and physicist.

In 1798, Davy became a chemist at the Medical Pneumatic Institution. In 1801 he became an assistant lecturer and in 1802 a professor at the Royal Institution. Beginning in 1820 he was president of the Royal Society of London. M. Faraday studied and began to work under Davy. In 1799, Davy discovered the intoxicating effect of nitrous oxide, which was called laughing gas. In 1800 he proposed an electrochemical theory of chemical affinity, later worked out by J. Berzelius. In 1807 he obtained metallic potassium and sodium by electrolysis of their hydroxides, which were considered to be undecomposable substances. In 1808 he obtained by means of electrolysis amalgams of calcium, strontium, barium, and magnesium. Independently of J. Gay-Lussac and L.-J. Thénard, Davy isolated boron from boric acid and in 1810 confirmed the elemental nature of chlorine. He proposed the hydrogen theory of acids, refuting the view of A. Lavoisier that each acid must contain oxygen. In 1808-09, Davy described the phenomenon of the so-called electric arc. In 1815 he designed the miner’s safety lamp with wire gauze. In 1821 he established the dependence of the electrical resistance of a conductor on its length and cross section and noted the dependence of electrical conductivity on temperature. Between 1803 and 1813 he delivered a series of lectures on agricultural chemistry. Davy expressed the thought that mineral salts are necessary for the nourishment of plants and pointed to the necessity of field experiments for solving problems in agriculture. In 1826 he became an honorary foreign member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.


The Collected Works, vols. 1-9. Edited by J. Davy. London, 1839–40.


Mogilevskii, B. L. Gemfri Devi. Moscow, 1937.
Crowther, J. G. British Scientists of the Nineteenth Century. London, 1935.
Davy, J. Life of Sir H. Davy. London, 1896.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
He may have been thinking about Humphry Davy's wretched experience as PRS.
In drawing his analogies between Vitality and electricity, Abernethy also called on the authority of Humphry Davy's Bakerian Lectures at the Royal Society.
Todd formulated the concept of nervous polarity, generated in nerve vesicles and transmitted in "nerve fibres", which was confirmed a century later by the Nobel Prizewinning work of Hodgkin and Huxley, who demonstrated the ionic basis of neuro-transmission, involving the same ions which had had been discovered by Faraday's mentor, Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) [8-9].
(John Davy, ed., The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy, 1839-40, vol.
Paul Lambert, president of the Institute of Corrosion, delivered a fascinating plenary lecture, 'From Sir Humphry Davy to Sustainability--185 years of Cathodic Protection', which concluded that the pioneering work conducted on British naval vessels in the early 19th century still forms the foundation of modern CP techniques today, despite the many technological advances made.
En el campo de la quimica, la filosofia natural mecanicista tuvo su edad de oro a finales del XVIII con los trabajos de Antoine de Lavoisier y la escuela francesa de la quimica analitica, hasta la llegada del britanico Humphry Davy con su obra Elements of chemical philosophy (1802), en la que propuso que "las variadas formas de la materia y sus cambios, dependen de poderes activos como la gravitacion, la cohesion, la repulsion calorica o calor, la atraccion quimica y la atraccion electrica" (2) Davy sugeria que la actividad natural tenia un fundamento inmaterial y dinamico, siguiendo los postulados de los idealistas alemanes de la "Naturphilosophie".
Of Banks's many other proteges, Humphry Davy (1778-1829) stands out as a huge personality, flawed but brilliant.
Included are chapters on botanist Joseph Banks (1743-1820), astronomers William Hershel (1738-1822) and his sister Caroline (1750-1848), 18th-century balloonists, chemist Humphry Davy (1778-1829), and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and the soul.
A hesitant reply emerged through the ether: 'Humphry Davy, I think.'
In the early years of the nineteenth century, privileged Londoners flocked to the theatrical public lectures on science given at the Royal Institution by the likes of the brilliant chemist Sir Humphry Davy, but it was through Jane Marcet's Conversations on Chemistry that the masses had their first exposure to science.