The Davy Lamp: Inventing the Miners’ Safety Lamp by Frank JamesIn 1817, Sir Humphry Davy came up with an invention that, while perhaps seeming modest to our modern eyes, was revolutionary in its time: the Davy Lamp. Designed to be used by miners, who previously had struggled against both darkness and the dangers of asphyxiation and explosion, the Miners’ Safety Lamp brought about a dramatic improvement in the safety and working conditions of the countless men toiling in mines around the world throughout the nineteenth century, with its ever-growing need for natural resources to fuel industry. This book marks the bicentennial of the invention of the lamp through reproductions of Davy’s original manuscripts and notes for the invention, with the addition of expert commentary and images, and is published in association with the Royal Institute, where the archive of Sir Humphry Davy is held.
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Less than a month later, the Tyne Mercury published a hostile letter from a J. Davy studied it, and returned it the next day. The claims made against Davy throughout by supporters of George Stephenson, a Northumberland-born engineer, proved more difficult to counter. By 4 November, Stephenson was testing a lamp which had three narrow ventilation tubes in the base. Davy, on the other hand, the established and well-connected man of science, understood the principle by which his lamp worked: he spent hours experimenting on samples of fire-damp, sent in sealed bottles from the north-east, in the laboratory of the Royal Institution, then used his research findings to shape his design.