Sir Humphry Davy - Scientist

Penzance born chemist who studied the effects of electric currents on compounds. Davy became interested in William Nicholson's discovery that electricity passing through water splits it into it's component elements, hydrogen and oxygen.

Humphry Davy - Apprentice surgeon apothocary
Humphry Davy - Apprentice surgeon apothocary

In 1807 Davy built a huge battery and by passing a current through molten potash he isolated a metal he called potassium. From soda he produced another metal he named sodium.

At the same time he worked on an electro-chemical theory in which he discussed the relationship between electrical and chemical actions on compounds. Much of hsi work was further developed by his brilliant young protégé Michael Faraday, who Davy allegedly claimed was his "greatest discovery".

It was in 1812 that he was knighted. The same year he gave a farewell lecture and resigned his post as professor at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

In 1815 Davy invented the miner's safety lamp, in which a metal gauze surrounding the flame prevents it from igniting any of the inflammable gas in the mine.

The town of Penzance acknowledges Davy with a prominent statue on the main street and a secondary school baring his name. However, it has been said that Davy hated the town and was only too glad to leave