Lancaster talk to unearth letters from famous inventor

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The private and unpublished letters of Sir Humphry Davy will be unearthed at a free public lecture from Lancaster University this month.

Professor Sharon Ruston from the Department of English and Creative Writing at Lancaster University has spent the past year unearthing Davy’s letters to family, friends and other public figures of the time, and will share her discoveries at the event on Thursday October 27 at the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster.

Davy has been described by Professor Brian Cox on his Science Britannica programme as “a genius” and “one of Britain’s science heroes”: he was the first person to inhale nitrous oxide (laughing gas), isolated more chemical elements than anyone else has before or since and invented the famous safety miners’ safety lamp.

But in spite of Davy’s significance, the majority of his private writing remains unpublished.

Professor Ruston said: “In the private letters which I will discuss in this talk, we see Davy at his least guarded and most angry.

“We see a new side to the most famous man of science of the early nineteenth century; one he might well have wanted to have remained hidden.”

Some of the letters discovered by Professor Ruston even cast doubt over Davy’s most famous invention: the safety lamp for miners.

The free event is open to all. Doors open at 6pm with complementary refreshments. The event begins at 6.30pm. Free tickets are available at or by calling 01524 592 190.