January 9th The Miners' Safety Lamp

Sir Humphry Davy (May 29th) conducted the first successful test of his miners’ safety lamp which he reported to the Royal Society just over two weeks later on January 25th 1816.
Until the introduction of the Miners’ Safety Lamp, miners wore a candle on a felt hat meaning that they effectively worked in the dark and were at risk from explosive gases.  The safety lamp comprised a wick lamp enclosed within a mesh in a metal frame, which greatly reduced the risk of explosions. Although Davy’s invention saved many thousands of lives, one, unintended, consequence of his idea was that miners were able to work deeper and further in the mine, which in itself was inherently even more unsafe.

The Ludgvan born Davy was already a renowned scientist and public speaker having discovered sodium, potassium, strontium, boron, calcium, barium, magnesium and boron and had determined the elemental nature of both chlorine and iodine. 

Davy was almost reckless in his experimental methods and, having heard of the discovery of nitrogen trichloride by Pierre Louis Dulong who lost an eye and two fingers in his work, promptly wrote to Dulong to ask for details of the experimental method.   He was then temporarily blinded in repeating the preparation of the explosive compound and was forced to hire an assistant, Michael Faraday.

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