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Davy, Humphry

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1778-1829) English scientist and author famous for inventing the miner's safety-lamp in 1815; knighted 1812, baronet 1818, President of the Royal Society 1820. In his youth he was an acquaintance of the romantic poets of the day: a friend of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, he helped correct the proofs of Coleridge's and William Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads (coll 1798), and some of his own poems were included in an anthology edited by Robert Southey. His last work, Consolations in Travel; or, The Last Days of a Philosopher (1830), published posthumously, is a series of dialogues interrupted by dreams and meditations. The work hinges on the narrator's conversion from sceptic to a believer in God, a conversion chiefly inspired by a revelatory dream which is recounted with notable elements of scientific fantasy. During the course of the vision the narrator travels in time (see Time Travel) to watch the birth of civilization and its advance, primarily through Technology; he also travels in space to observe the inhabitants of Saturn (see Outer Planets) – giant beings who owe something, in size at least, to Voltaire's Micromegas (in Le Micromégas de Mr. de Voltaire ..., coll 1752; trans anon 1753) – and of a "cometary system", who appear to be aflame. The message of this dream journey is that mankind must advance, through scientific and intellectual endeavour, to a finer and more ethereal level of existence. [PKi]

Sir Humphry Davy

born Penzance, Cornwall: 17 December 1778

died Geneva, Switzerland: 29 May 1829



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