New Discoveries in Pneumaticks!

or - an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, a historic cartoon by James Gillray, 1802.


Discover who's who and what's happening in James Gillray's historic representation of an Ri lecture by Humphry Davy. 

  • Key stage

    All ages

  • Subjects

    Humphry Davy, nitrous oxide, 

  • Media

    Interactive image from


This etching depicts a lecture given in 1802. It shows either Thomas Young or Thomas Garnett giving laughing gas (nitrous oxide) to Sir John Hippisley, with unfortunate results. Assisting the lecturer is Humphry Davy, who you can see manipulating the gas bags behind the bench. On the lecture-table you can see air-pumps, receivers and pneumatic toys displayed. 

The lecture was entitled ‘New Discoveries in Pneumatics’ and advertised the work that a young Humphry Davy had undertaken in Bristol while at the Pneumatics Society working with Dr Thomas Beddoes. The audience contains several famous people of the day including Count Rumford, William Sotheby, Frederica Augusta Locke and Issac D’Israeli.

The etching was produced by James Gillray (13th August 1756-1st June 1815), a British caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810.


Learn more about Humphry Davy's experiments with nitrous oxide in the Ri event: Drugs, science and society; past present and future, featuring Sharon Ruston and David Nutt.

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