TV scientist Brian Cox pays tribute to inventor Humphry Davy
PENZANCE’S famous chemist and inventor, Sir Humphry Davy was highly praised by top TV scientist, Professor Brian Cox in a BBC TV programme earlier this week.
In his new three-part series, Science Britannica, screened on Wednesday evening, the particle physicist acts as a guide through the history of Britain’s contribution to the development of science.
In doing so he pays a glowing tribute to the impact that Humphry Davy made as a young scientist at the turn of the 19th century.
“In 1802 at the Royal Institute, he was the star attraction as the institute’s new Professor of Chemistry at the unlikely age of 23. He was good-looking, charismatic and, many thought, arrogant – he thought he was a genius and he was probably right. He was also a passionate communicator of science, a genuine star.”
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In the programme, Professor Cox re-enacts some of the experiments that Humphry Davy would carry out in front of the packed audiences who would cram into the Royal Institution lecture theatre to hear him speak.
“His spectacular demonstrations had all the excitement of a magic show but it was better than magic - it was chemistry,” Professor Cox added.
Local historian Peter Waverly said that Brian Cox's opinion of Humphry Davy confirmed what many people in West Cornwall knew and called for his picture to appear on bank notes in the same way that his disciple, Michael Faraday, has done.
“Those who appreciate what Davy did have always known his genius, but Brian Cox was one of the first to recognise and state this on our public media because until now Humphry Davy has never, ever been given the public recognition he deserves,” he says.
“It is long overdue that Humphry Davy appeared on our currency in recognition of the phenomenal work he did in the advancement of science to the betterment of mankind's knowledge.”
Sir Humphry Davy (1778 – 1829) invented the Davy lamp, which allowed miners to work safely in the presence of flammable gases in 1815, discovered several alkali and alkaline earth metals and made important contributions to the discoveries of the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine.
Berzelius called Davy's 1806 Bakerian Lecture On Some Chemical Agencies of Electricity "one of the best memoirs which has ever enriched the theory of chemistry" – the paper was central to any chemical affinity theory in the first half of the nineteenth century.