Humphry Davy, fully Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet

Davy, fully Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet

English Chemist and Inventor whose laboratory assistant was Michael Faraday

Author Quotes

The moment after, I began to respire 20 quarts of unmingled nitrous oxide. A thrilling, extending from the chest to the extremities, was almost immediately produced. I felt a sense of tangible extension highly pleasurable in every limb; my visible impressions were dazzling, and apparently magnified, I heard distinctly every sound in the room and was perfectly aware of my situation. By degrees, as the pleasurable sensations increased, I last all connection with external things; trains of vivid visible images rapidly passed through my mind, and were connected with words in such a manner, as to produce perceptions perfectly novel. I existed in a world of newly connected and newly modified ideas. I theorized—I imagined that I made discoveries. When I was awakened from this semi-delirious trance by Dr. Kinglake, who took the bag from my mouth, indignation and pride were the first feelings produced by the sight of the persons about me. My emotions were enthusiastic and sublime; and for a minute I walked round the room, perfectly regardless of what was said to me. As I recovered my former state of mind, I felt an inclination to communicate the discoveries I had made during the experiment. I endeavored to recall the ideas, they were feeble and indistinct; one collection of terms, however, presented itself: and with the most intense belief and prophetic manner, I exclaimed to Dr Kinglake, 'Nothing exists but thoughts!—the universe is composed of impressions, ideas, pleasures and pains!'

Language is not only the vehicle of thought; it is a great and efficient instrument in thinking.

The most important of my discoveries have been suggested to me by my failures.

My sole object was to serve the cause of humanity, and if I succeeded I am amply rewarded in the gratifying of having done so.

The progression of physical science is much more connected with your prosperity than is usually imagined. You owe to experimental philosophy some of the most important and peculiar of your advantages. It is not by foreign conquests chiefly that you are become great, but by a conquest of nature in your own country.

Natural science is founded on minute critical views of the general order of events taking place upon our globe, corrected, enlarged, or exalted by experiments, in which the agents concerned are placed under new circumstances, and their diversified properties separately examined. The body of natural science, then, consists of facts; is analogy,—the relation of resemblance of facts by which its different parts are connected, arranged, and employed, either for popular use, or for new speculative improvements.

The three states of the caterpillar, larva, and butterfly have, since the time of the Greek poets, been applied to typify the human being,--its terrestrial form, apparent death, and ultimate celestial destination.

Nature never deceives you: the rocks, the mountains, the streams, always speak the same language; a shower of snow may hide the verdant woods in spring, a thunder-storm may render the blue limpid streams foul and turbulent; but these effects are rare and transient: in a few hours, or at most in a few days, all the sources of beauty are renovated. And nature affords no continued trains of misfortunes and miseries, such as depend upon the constitution of humanity; no hopes forever blighted in the bud, no beings, full of life, beauty, and promise, taken from us in the prime of youth. Her fruits are all balmy and sweet; she affords none of those blighted ones, so common in the life of man, and so like the fabled apples of the Dead Sea, fresh and beautiful to the sight, but, when tasted, full of bitterness and ashes.

The tree of knowledge is grafted upon the tree of life; and that fruit which brought the fear of death into the world, budding on an immortal stock, becomes the fruit of the promise of immortality.

Nothing exists but thoughts!—the universe is composed of impressions, ideas, pleasures and pains!

The wealth and prosperity of the country are only the comeliness of the body, the fullness of the flesh and fat; but the spirit is independent of them; it requires only muscle, bone and nerve for the true exercise of its functions. We cannot lose our liberty, because we cannot cease to think.

Nothing is so dangerous to the progress of the human mind than to assume that our views of science are ultimate, that there are no mysteries in nature, that our triumphs are complete and that there are no new worlds to conquer.

There are very few persons who pursue science with true dignity.

Nothing tends so much to the advancement of knowledge as the application of a new instrument.

There may be beings, thinking beings, near or surrounding us, which we do not perceive, which we cannot imagine. We know very little; but, in my opinion, we know enough to hope for the immortality, the individual immortality, of the better part of man.

Oh, most magnificent and noble Nature! Have I not worshipped thee with such a love as never mortal man before displayed? Adored thee in thy majesty of visible creation, and searched into thy hidden and mysterious ways as Poet, as Philosopher, as Sage?

To me there never has been a higher source of honor or distinction than that connected with advances in science. I have not possessed enough of the eagle in my character to make a direct flight to the loftiest altitudes in the social world; and I certainly never endeavored to reach those heights by using the creeping powers of the reptile, who in ascending, generally chooses the dirtiest path, because it is the easiest.

Religion, whether natural or revealed, has always the most beneficial influence on the mind. In youth, in health, and prosperity, it awakens feelings of gratitude, and sublime love, and purifies at the same time that which it exalts: but it is in misfortune, in sickness, in age, that its effects are most truly and beneficially felt: when submission in faith, and humble trust in the divine will, from duties become pleasures, undecaying sources of consolation; then it creates powers which were believed to be extinct, and gives a freshness to the mind which was supposed to have passed away forever, but which is now renovated as an immortal hope. Its influence outlives all earthly enjoyments, and becomes stronger as the organs decay and the frame dissolves; it appears as that evening star of light, in the horizon of life, which we are sure is to become, in another season, a morning star, and it throws its radiance through the gloom and shadow of death.

Today, for the first time in my life, I have had a distinct sympathy with nature. I was lying on the top of a rock to leeward; the wind was high, and everything was in motion... the whole sky was in motion... everything was alive, and myself part of the series of visual impressions; I should have felt pain in tearing a leaf from one of the trees.

Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it.

When two elements combine and form more than one compound, the masses of one element that react with a fixed mass of the other are in the ratio of small whole numbers.

Scientists were rated as great heretics by the church, but they were truly religious men because of their faith in the orderliness of the universe.

The beginning of civilization is the discovery of some useful arts, by which men acquire property, comforts, or luxuries. The necessity or desire of preserving them leads to laws and social institutions. The discovery of peculiar arts gives superiority to particular nations ... to subjugate other nations, who learn their arts, and ultimately adopt their manners;— so that in reality the origin as well as the progress and improvement of civil society is founded in mechanical and chemical inventions.

The caterpillar, on being converted into an inert scaly mass, does not appear to be fitting itself for an inhabitant of the air, and can have no consciousness of the brilliancy of its future being. We are masters of the earth, but perhaps we are the slaves of some great and unknown being. The fly that we crush with our finger or feed with our viands has no knowledge of man, and no consciousness of his superiority. We suppose that we are acquainted with matter and all its elements; yet we cannot even guess at the cause of electricity, or explain the laws of the formation of the stones that fall from meteors. There may be beings, thinking beings, near or surrounding us, which we do not perceive, which we cannot imagine. We know very little; but, in my opinion, we know enough to hope for the immortality, the individual immortality, of the better part of man.

The child of trial, to mortality and all its changeful influences given; on the green earth decreed to move and die, and yet by such a fate prepared for heaven.

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English Chemist and Inventor whose laboratory assistant was Michael Faraday