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Davy Sir Humphry

Davy, Sir Humphry (1778-1829), a great English chemist, born at Penzance in Cornwall. After a severe life at school, he was apprenticed to a surgeon-apothecary. He had already, while at school, developed a taste for chemistry, and had made some experiments on the air in sea-weed. This attracted the notice of, among others, a Dr. Beddoes, of Bristol, who gave him the post of laboratory assistant. His discovery and publication of the properties of nitrous oxide led to his appointment at the age of 22 as Professor of Chemistry to the Royal Institution. In 1830 he became a member of the Royal Society. Here, besides giving a course of valuable and interesting lectures, he made discoveries in galvanism, and made known the properties of chlorine. In 1810 he received the prize of the French Institution, of which he was appointed corresponding member, and in 1812 he was knighted. In 1813 he published Elements of Agricultural Chemistry, and was appointed Professor of Chemistry to the Board of Agriculture, and lectured on the subject. His discovery of the safety lamp, of which he made a present to mankind, marked an era in mining. In 1818 he visited Italy and tried unsuccessfully to unroll the Herculaneum MSS. In 1820 he was President of the Royal Society. In 1824 he made an expedition to Norway, during which he hit upon a method - which, however, did not find a practical success - for preserving the copper of ships' bottoms. He died at Geneva, and the authorities gave him a public funeral. A statue of him was erected at Penzance.