Humphry Davy, fully Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet

Humphry
Davy, fully Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet
1778
1829

English Chemist and Inventor whose laboratory assistant was Michael Faraday

Author Quotes

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.

In the present state of our knowledge, it would be useless to attempt to speculate on the remote cause of the electrical energy, or the reason why different bodies, after being brought into contact, should be found differently electrified; its relation to chemical affinity is, however, sufficiently evident. May it not be identical with it, and an essential property of matter?

All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike--and yet it is the most precious thing we have.

It is contrary to the usual order of things, that events so harmonious as those of the system of the world, should depend on such diversified agents as are supposed to exist in our artificial arrangements; and there is reason to anticipate a great reduction in the number of undecompounded bodies, and to expect that the analogies of nature will be found conformable to the refined operations of art. The more the phenomena of the universe are studied, the more distinct their connection appears, and the more simple their causes, the more magnificent their design, and the more wonderful the wisdom and power of their Author.

And by the influence of heat, light, and electrical powers, there is a constant series of changes [in animal and vegetal substances]; matter assumes new forms, the destruction of one order of beings tends to the conservation of another, solution and consolidation, decay and renovation, are connected, and whilst the parts of the system, continue in a state of fluctuation and change, the order and harmony of the whole remain unalterable.

It stands to the everlasting credit of science that by acting on the human mind it has overcome man's insecurity before himself and before nature.

But if the two countries or governments are at war, the men of science are not. That would, indeed be a civil war of the worst description: we should rather, through the instrumentality of the men of science soften the asperities of national hostility.

It will be a general expression of the facts that have been detailed, relating to the changes and transitions by electricity, in common philosophical language, to say, that hydrogen, the alkaline substances, the metals, and certain metallic oxides, are all attracted by negatively electrified metallic surfaces; and contrariwise, that oxygen and acid substances are attracted by positively electrified metallic surfaces and rejected by negatively electrified metallic surfaces; and these attractive and repulsive forces are sufficiently energetic to destroy or suspend the usual operation of elective affinity.

By science calmed, over the peaceful soul, bright with eternal Wisdom's lucid ray, Peace, meek of eye, extends her soft control, and drives the puny Passions far away.

John Dalton was a very singular Man, a Quaker by profession and practice: He has none of the manners or ways of the world. A tolerable mathematician He gained his livelihood I believe by teaching the mathematics to young people. He pursued science always with mathematical views. He seemed little attentive to the labors of men except when they countenanced or confirmed his own ideas... He was a very disinterested man, seemed to have no ambition beyond that of being thought a good Philosopher. He was a very coarse Experimenter & almost always found the results he required. Memory and observation were subordinate qualities in his mind. He followed with ardor analogies and inductions and however his claims to originality may admit of question I have no doubt that he was one of the most original philosophers of his time & one of the most ingenious.

Cavendish was a great Man with extraordinary singularities—His voice was squeaking his manner nervous He was afraid of strangers & seemed when embarrassed to articulate with difficulty—He wore the costume of our grandfathers. Was enormously rich but made no use of his wealth... He Cavendish lived latterly the life of a solitary, came to the Club dinner & to the Royal Society: but received nobody at his home. He was acute sagacious & profound & I think the most accomplished British Philosopher of his time.

Cuvier had even in his address & manner the character of a superior Man, much general power & eloquence in conversation & great variety of information on scientific as well as popular subjects. I should say of him that he is the most distinguished man of talents I have ever known on the continent: but I doubt if He be entitled to the appellation of a Man of Genius.

Even in a moral point of view, I think the analogies derived from the transformation of insects admit of some beautiful applications, which have not been neglected by pious entomologists. 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; and it seems more extraordinary that a sordid and crawling worm should become a beautiful and active fly—that an inhabitant of the dark and fetid dunghill should in an instant entirely change its form, rise into the blue air, and enjoy the sunbeams—than that a being whose pursuits here have been after an undying name, and whose purest happiness has been derived from the acquisition of intellectual power and finite knowledge, should rise hereafter into a state of being where immortality is no longer a name, and ascend to the source of Unbounded Power and Infinite Wisdom.

Every discovery opens a new field for investigation of facts, shows us the imperfection of our theories. It has justly been said, that the greater the circle of light, the greater the boundary of darkness by which it is surrounded.

Fortunately science, like that nature to which it belongs, is neither limited by time nor by space. It belongs to the world, and is of no country and of no age. The more we know, the more we feel our ignorance; the more we feel how much remains unknown; and in philosophy, the sentiment of the Macedonian hero can never apply, — there are always new worlds to conquer.

Geology, perhaps more than any other department of natural philosophy, is a science of contemplation. It requires no experience or complicated apparatus, no minute processes upon the unknown processes of matter. It demands only an enquiring mind and senses alive to the facts almost everywhere presented in nature. And as it may be acquired without much difficulty, so it may be improved without much painful exertion.

I envy not quality of the mind or intellect in others; not genius, power, wit, or fancy: but if I could choose what would be most delightful, and I believe most useful to me, I should prefer a firm religious belief to every other blessing: for it makes life a discipline of goodness,—creates new hopes when all earthly hopes vanish; and throws over all decay, the destruction of existence, the most gorgeous of all lights; awakes life even in death, and from corruption and decay calls up beauty and divinity; makes an instrument of torture and of shame the ladder of ascent to paradise; and far above all combinations of earthly hopes calls up the most delightful visions of plains and amaranths, the gardens of the blest, the security of everlasting joys, where the sensualist and the skleptic view only gloom, decay, annihilation, and despair.

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 persons about me. My emotions were enthusiastic and sublime; and for a minute I walked about 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 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.' [while high on nitrous oxide]

I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.

I thank God that I was not made a dexterous manipulator, for the most important of my discoveries have been suggested to me by my failures.

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.

Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles and kindnesses and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart, and secure comfort.

Author Picture
First Name
Humphry
Last Name
Davy, fully Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet
Birth Date
1778
Death Date
1829
Bio

English Chemist and Inventor whose laboratory assistant was Michael Faraday