Celebrating the bicentenary of the Davy lamp

To mark this key anniversary in coal mining history, the Royal Institution is partnering with ArchAlive Ltd to publish a unique edition of Sir Humphry Davy's volume of manuscripts.

The Davy lamp
Paul Wilkinson

It will be printed on acid free paper, bound and protected in its own bespoke slip-case and is accompanied by a full transcription and expert commentary from the book’s editor Frank James, Professor of History of Science at the Ri. Each subscriber will be listed in the book and will receive access to the searchable e-book of the text and Frank James’s Presidential Address to Newcomen Society detailing the history of the lamp.

This limited edition book is available by subscription only. To order your copy now, please visit the ArchAlive website or call +44 (0)20 7247 2407.               

Please note that library and educational or institutional versions can be made available. For further information about library and/or educational copies please email or call ArchAlive on the above number.

The Miners’ Safety Lamp became known as the Davy Lamp, and its introduction to coal mines in 1816 immediately and enormously reduced the absolute number of fatalities whilst increasing coal production: it was a fundamental contribution to the continuing industrialisation of Britain, and indeed elsewhere, during the nineteenth century.

The publication of 'The Davy Lamp – Inventing the Miners’ Safety Lamp' is an opportunity to obtain a unique record of this historically significant period of collaborative creative work by Davy and Faraday.

Produced to the highest standard by Blissetts, bookbinder to HM The Queen, the book contains Davy’s scientific notes, workings and diagrams from development of his prototypes to the final version. Its pages include Davy’s drafts of papers on the lamp, tracking how Davy developed his ideas on safety lamps, culminating in his invention of the gauze lamp in mid-December 1815.


Humphry Davy’s manuscript, Inventing the Miners’ Safety Lamp, reveals in detail the mind of the inventor and the development of ideas to improve original concepts. All the crossing outs and text insertions, shown here, are vital and fascinating witness to Davy’s thought process. The manuscript and its transcription, with the extensive notes by Prof Frank James, make this an invaluable resource for researchers and historians of technology, mining, safety, industrial development and innovation.

Deborah Jaffé, author of Ingenious Women


The Ri has partnered with ArchAlive Ltd to publish 'The Davy Lamp – Inventing the Miners’ Safety Lamp'. This limited edition publication marks the bicentenary year of a key anniversary in coal mining history, when in 1816 Sir Humphry Davy’s Miners’ Safety Lamp was brought into use.

The latter part of 1815 was spent by Davy in an intense period of work – alongside Michael Faraday, who would later go to succeed him as the country’s leading chemist– which focussed on finding a solution to the dangers of firedamp.  Developed in the basement laboratory of the Ri, the Miners’ Safety lamp was designed to be lit for miners to use without allowing the heat from the flame to explode the concentration of methane gas often found as miners dug deeper.