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Home » Browse » Chemistry & Physics » DAVY, Sir Humphry. - On the Safety Lamp for Coal Miners;
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DAVY, Sir Humphry.

On the Safety Lamp for Coal Miners;

with some Researches on Flame.

Published: London: R. Hunter, 1818

Stock code: 95704

Price: £2,500

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First edition. A collection of Davy’s researches into combustion for the design of his miner’s safety lamp, with a detailed fold-out diagram of his invention. An icon of the industrial revolution, the need for a safety lamp for miners was born out of a series of explosions in coal mines, due to pockets of flammable gas known as firedamp. After some experimentation in the autumn of 1815, Davy created a prototype. It was a simple and elegant solution to a deadly problem: a fine mesh enclosing the flame acted as a deflagration arrester and prevented ignition of firedamp. It was tested in January 1816 at Hebburn colliery and quickly went into production. However, the then-unknown George Stephenson had also been working on the problem independently, and had invented a similar lamp using glass instead of gauze – the Geordie lamp, as it was later named. Davy’s invention quickly became embroiled in controversy over plagiarism, from which he was later cleared. Both men’s lamp designs also had safety issues, with the gauze of the Davy lamp rusting in the wet mining conditions and so rendering the lamp unsafe. Nonetheless, the Davy lamp was cheap to produce, and its gauze design remained integral to the mining industry. It was subsequently incorporated into many safety lamp designs – indeed, an equivalent version is still used today. A fascinating book, in which Davy writes of his hope that some practical purpose may be derived from his research in order to “lessen the miseries or increase the comforts of our fellow creatures” (preface). Scarce in the original boards.

Octavo. Original brown boards backing blue-grey paper, paper label to spine lettered in black. Full page fold-out diagram. Ownership inscription (Paris address) to verso of front free endpaper. Some light stains to boards, tips worn, front hinge cracked but holding, contents slightly foxed and a little cockled. A very good copy.

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