On the Safety Lamp for Preventing Explosions in Mines, Houses Lighted by Gas, Spirit Warehouses, or Magazines in Ships, etc.
Self-taught chemist and inventor Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was one of the first professional scientists of his age. President of the Royal Society from 1820 to 1827, he was also a brilliant lecturer whose popularising of science made him famous. He also pioneered electrochemistry, isolating potassium, sodium and calcium. But Davy is best known for creating the safety lamp when he was asked to address the frequent occurrence of explosions in coal mines. He realised that firedamp - flammable gases such as methane - was ignited at high temperature by the open flames of miners' lamps. In 1815, he devised a lamp with a mesh screen that prevented ignition of firedamp; this application of science allowed miners to work in greater safety. First published in 1818 and revised in 1825, this work details the invention that cemented Davy's position as a national hero and earned him the Royal Society's Rumford Medal.