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Humphry Davy
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    (December 17, 1778-May 29, 1829)
    Born in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
    Discovered or isolated the elements sodium (1807), potassium (1807), calcium (1808), magnesium (1808), barium (1808) and boron (1808)
    Demonstrated that the previously discovered chlorine and iodine were elements
    Invented a safety lamp for mines (1815)
    Wrote 'Elements of Chemical Philosophy' (1812)
    President of the Royal Society (1820-27)
    Knighted (1812)
    Named a baronet (1819)
    He was a rather reckless experimenter who caused several laboratory explosions.
    He also regularly inhaled the gases he worked with, nearly killing himself with carbon monoxide.
    He also discovered the intoxicating effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and became addicted to it.
    His early safety lamps worked better in theory than practice, since if the iron mesh shielding the flame rusted (a fairly common occurrence in Britain's damp mines), the lamp quickly became unsafe.
    He wrote poems that were promising enough for Samuel Taylor Coleridge to declare that if Davy 'had not been the first chemist, he would have been the first poet of his age.'
    He could attract audiences of a thousand people to his scientific lectures.
    Although France and England were at war, the Institut de France awarded him the Napoleon Medal for his discoveries (1807).
    He is the namesake for the Royal Society's Davy Medal, awarded 'for an outstandingly important recent discovery in any branch of chemistry.'

Credit: C. Fishel

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