Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Correspondence of Humphry Davy and his Circle

 Call for documents

Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829) was the foremost British chemist of his day. Born in Penzance, Cornwall, he rose to prominence at the Pneumatic Institute in Bristol, before moving to the Royal Institution in London, and eventually became President of the Royal Society. His major contributions to science include the physiological effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), the discovery of potassium and sodium, the development of electro-chemistry, the miners' safety lamp, the electro-chemical protection of the copper sheeting of Royal Navy vessels, the conservation of the Herculaneum papyri and seeking to improve the quality of optical glass. As a friend of Coleridge, Southey and Wordsworth, Davy was also a Romantic poet and was almost certainly the chemist whom Mary Shelley had in mind when she described the teacher of Victor Frankenstein.

A team of Davy scholars is now planning to publish an edition of letters of Davy and his circle including his wife Jane Davy (nèe Kerr, olim Apreece, 1780–1855) and his brother John Davy (1790–1868). Although the Royal Institution holds the vast majority of Davy letters, we have so far located Davy material in about fifty archives including the British Library, Wellcome, Bodleian, Bristol City Archives, American Philosophical Society, the Northumberland Record Office and other North-East archives. We would be very interested to hear of any Davy letters or related material by or about him located in other archives or in private possession.

The team comprises Professor Sharon Ruston (University of Salford), Professor Frank James (Royal Institution), Professor Tim Fulford (Nottingham Trent University), Professor Jan Golinski (University of New Hampshire) and Professor David Knight (University of Durham).

Please contact Professor Sharon Ruston at Your assistance will be greatly appreciated.

No comments: