The Experimental Self Humphry Davy and the Making of a Man of Science

Ebook Description

How did someone become a scientist before the profession itself existed? Jan Golinski finds an answer in the remarkable career of Humphry Davy (1778-1829), one of the foremost British men of science of the nineteenth century. Originally a country boy from a modest background, Davy s remarkable accomplishments propelled him to a knighthood and the presidency of the Royal Society. He was a brilliant and celebrated lecturer, and his chemical investigations led to the discoveries of sodium, potassium, and other elements and to the invention of the miners safety lamp. He was also a poet, a friend of Coleridge and Wordsworth, who wrote philosophical dialogues, a book on salmon-fishing, and narratives of his travels. An enigmatic figure to his contemporaries, Davy has continued to elude the attempts of biographers to classify him. Golinski argues that Davy s life is best viewed as a prolonged process of self-experimentation. Readers will follow Davy s course from his youthful enthusiasm for physiological experimentation to his late-life manifestation as a melancholic traveler on the European continent. Along the way, they will gain an appreciation for the creativity Davy invested in his self-fashioning as a man of science, and the obstacles he overcame, in a period when the path to a scientific career was not as well-trodden as it is today. The Experimental Self is an inventive treatment of a major figure in science history."

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