Humphry Davy quotes

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Humphry Davy

Birthdate: 17. December 1778
Date of death: 29. May 1829

Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet was a Cornish chemist and inventor, who is best remembered today for isolating, using electricity, a series of elements for the first time: potassium and sodium in 1807 and calcium, strontium, barium, magnesium and boron the following year, as well as discovering the elemental nature of chlorine and iodine. He also studied the forces involved in these separations, inventing the new field of electrochemistry. In 1799 Davy experimented with nitrous oxide and became astonished that it made him laugh, so he nicknamed it "laughing gas", and wrote about its potential anaesthetic properties in relieving pain during surgery.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."

He was a Baronet, President of the Royal Society , Member of the Royal Irish Academy , and Fellow of the Geological Society . He also invented the Davy lamp and a very early form of incandescent light bulb.

He joked that his assistant Michael Faraday was his greatest discovery.

„It is surely a pure delight to know, how and by what processes this earth is clothed with verdure and life, how the clouds, mists and rain are formed, what causes all the changes of this terrestrial system of things, and by what divine laws order is preserved amidst apparent confusion.“

—  Humphry Davy

The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy, Volume IX, Salmonia and Consolation in Travel (1840), Consolation in Travel book section, Chapter Dialogue V. The Chemical Philosopher, p. 361 http://books.google.de/books?id=KDw9AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA362&lpg=PA362&dq=humphry+davy+Every+discovery+opens+a+new+field+for+investigation+of+facts,+shows+us+the+imperfection+of+our+theories.+It+has+justly+been+said,+that+the+greater+the+circle+of+light,+the+greater+the+boundary+of+darkness+by+which+it+is+surrounded.&source=bl&ots=9MZhcfRJFa&sig=UI05WRE5VzJDjfKd7Kf1Cp9B06Y&hl=de&sa=X&ei=WfSvUoG1OsiatAaHq4CIDg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=humphry%20davy%20Every%20discovery%20opens%20a%20new%20field%20for%20investigation%20of%20facts%2C%20shows%20us%20the%20imperfection%20of%20our%20theories.%20It%20has%20justly%20been%20said%2C%20that%20the%20greater%20the%20circle%20of%20light%2C%20the%20greater%20the%20boundary%20of%20darkness%20by%20which%20it%20is%20surrounded.&f=false, edited by John Davy, London: Smith, Elder and Co. Cornhill
Context: It is surely a pure delight to know, how and by what processes this earth is clothed with verdure and life, how the clouds, mists and rain are formed, what causes all the changes of this terrestrial system of things, and by what divine laws order is preserved amidst apparent confusion. It is a sublime occupation to investigate the cause of the tempest and the volcano, and to point out their use in the economy of things, — to bring the lightning from the clouds and make it subservient to our experiments, — to produce as it were a microcosm in the laboratory of art, and to measure and weigh those invisible atoms, which, by their motions and changes according to laws impressed upon them by the Divine Intelligence, constitute the universe of things. The true chemical philosopher sees good in all the diversified forms of the external world. Whilst he investigates the operations of infinite power guided by infinite wisdom, all low prejudices, all mean superstitions disappear from his mind. He sees man an atom amidst atoms fixed upon a point in space; and yet modifying the laws that are around him by understanding them; and gaining, as it were, a kind of dominion over time, and an empire in material space, and exerting on a scale infinitely small a power seeming a sort of shadow or reflection of a creative energy, and which entitles him to the distinction of being made in the image of God and animated by a spark of the divine mind. Whilst chemical pursuits exalt the understanding, they do not depress the imagination or weaken genuine feelings; whilst they give the mind habits of accuracy, by obliging it to attend to facts, they likewise extend its analogies; and, though conversant with the minute forms of things, they have for their ultimate end the great and magnificent objects of nature. They regard the formation of a crystal, the structure of a pebble, the nature of a clay or earth; and they apply to the causes of the diversity of our mountain chains, the appearances of the winds, thunder-storms, meteors, the earthquake, the volcano, and all those phenomena which offer the most striking images to the poet and the painter. They keep alive that inextinguishable thirst after knowledge, which is one of the greatest charactics of our nature; — for every discovery opens a new field for investigation of facts, shows us the imperfection of our theories. It has justly been said, that the greater the circle of light, the greater the boundary of darkness by which it is surrounded.

„The true chemical philosopher sees good in all the diversified forms of the external world.“

—  Humphry Davy

The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy, Volume IX, Salmonia and Consolation in Travel (1840), Consolation in Travel book section, Chapter Dialogue V. The Chemical Philosopher, p. 361 http://books.google.de/books?id=KDw9AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA362&lpg=PA362&dq=humphry+davy+Every+discovery+opens+a+new+field+for+investigation+of+facts,+shows+us+the+imperfection+of+our+theories.+It+has+justly+been+said,+that+the+greater+the+circle+of+light,+the+greater+the+boundary+of+darkness+by+which+it+is+surrounded.&source=bl&ots=9MZhcfRJFa&sig=UI05WRE5VzJDjfKd7Kf1Cp9B06Y&hl=de&sa=X&ei=WfSvUoG1OsiatAaHq4CIDg&ved=0CEoQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=humphry%20davy%20Every%20discovery%20opens%20a%20new%20field%20for%20investigation%20of%20facts%2C%20shows%20us%20the%20imperfection%20of%20our%20theories.%20It%20has%20justly%20been%20said%2C%20that%20the%20greater%20the%20circle%20of%20light%2C%20the%20greater%20the%20boundary%20of%20darkness%20by%20which%20it%20is%20surrounded.&f=false, edited by John Davy, London: Smith, Elder and Co. Cornhill
Context: It is surely a pure delight to know, how and by what processes this earth is clothed with verdure and life, how the clouds, mists and rain are formed, what causes all the changes of this terrestrial system of things, and by what divine laws order is preserved amidst apparent confusion. It is a sublime occupation to investigate the cause of the tempest and the volcano, and to point out their use in the economy of things, — to bring the lightning from the clouds and make it subservient to our experiments, — to produce as it were a microcosm in the laboratory of art, and to measure and weigh those invisible atoms, which, by their motions and changes according to laws impressed upon them by the Divine Intelligence, constitute the universe of things. The true chemical philosopher sees good in all the diversified forms of the external world. Whilst he investigates the operations of infinite power guided by infinite wisdom, all low prejudices, all mean superstitions disappear from his mind. He sees man an atom amidst atoms fixed upon a point in space; and yet modifying the laws that are around him by understanding them; and gaining, as it were, a kind of dominion over time, and an empire in material space, and exerting on a scale infinitely small a power seeming a sort of shadow or reflection of a creative energy, and which entitles him to the distinction of being made in the image of God and animated by a spark of the divine mind. Whilst chemical pursuits exalt the understanding, they do not depress the imagination or weaken genuine feelings; whilst they give the mind habits of accuracy, by obliging it to attend to facts, they likewise extend its analogies; and, though conversant with the minute forms of things, they have for their ultimate end the great and magnificent objects of nature. They regard the formation of a crystal, the structure of a pebble, the nature of a clay or earth; and they apply to the causes of the diversity of our mountain chains, the appearances of the winds, thunder-storms, meteors, the earthquake, the volcano, and all those phenomena which offer the most striking images to the poet and the painter. They keep alive that inextinguishable thirst after knowledge, which is one of the greatest charactics of our nature; — for every discovery opens a new field for investigation of facts, shows us the imperfection of our theories. It has justly been said, that the greater the circle of light, the greater the boundary of darkness by which it is surrounded.

„Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and of no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance; the more we feel how much remains unknown“

—  Humphry Davy

Discourse Delivered at the Royal Society (30 November 1825), published in Six Discourses delivered before the Royal Society, at their Anniversary Meetings, on the Award of the Royal and Copley Medals, preceded by an Address to the Society on the Progress and Prospects of Science (1827); also in The Edinburgh Review Or Critical Journal (October 1827)
Context: Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and of no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance; the more we feel how much remains unknown; and in philosophy, the sentiment of the Macedonian hero can never apply, — there are always new worlds to conquer.

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