The Davy Letters Project

A team of Davy scholars, including the Ri's Prof Frank James, are working to edit the first-ever edition of the Collected Letters of Humphry Davy and his Circle.

Oil portrait of Sir Humphry Davy by Archer James Oliver
Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829) by Archer James Oliver c.1810, Oil on canvas, 231.2 x 141 cm

The Davy Letters

The Davy Letters project website, funded by the British Academy, the Wellcome Trust, the British Society for the History of Science, and the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry, went live in February 2011. The website is the first stage in the publication of the first-ever edition of the Collected Letters of Humphry Davy and his Circle, edited by a team of Davy scholars.

The team comprises Tim Fulford (De Montfort University), Jan Golinski (University of New Hampshire), Frank James (Royal Institution and UCL), David Knight (Durham University), Andrew Lacey (Lancaster University), and Sharon Ruston (Lancaster University).

These letters, over 200 of which are held in the Royal Institution archives, document Davy's work on electrochemistry and electromagnetism, mineralogy and geology, and his collaborations with other chemists such as J. G. Children and W. H. Pepys. They illuminate the controversy that initially followed his identification of chlorine as an element and his experiments on fluorine and iodine. The experimental work leading to the development of the safety lamp and the subsequent dispute concerning credit for that invention is also covered.

The Collected Davy and his Circle Letters edition promises to reveal much about Davy himself, his wife and brother, and the milieu in which they lived.

Find out more about Sir Humphry Davy