9 August 2017 09:00

A free online course, organised by Lancaster University, will examine one of the best-known men of science of the nineteenth century.

Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) was a chemist who was also a poet in the days before culture was divided into science and the arts. The course will examine his contribution to both.

He was the first person to inhale nitrous oxide, he isolated nine chemical elements and, most famously, he invented the miners’ safety lamp, known as the Davy lamp.

This course will consider Davy’s life and career using his manuscript notebooks and chemical apparatus held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

Participants will read Davy’s letters, his poetry and even watch the recreation of one of his most dangerous experiments!

Lead Educator is Professor Sharon Ruston, from Lancaster University’s Department of English Literature and Creative Writing. She is currently co-editing The Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy, to be published in four volumes by Oxford University Press in 2018.

She said: “Humphry Davy was a truly fascinating figure. He lived in exciting times and made important discoveries. This course will reveal the true extent of his talents and, through his example, ask us to rethink our own ideas of the relationship between the sciences and the arts.”

The course is aimed at anyone with an interest in history, particularly the history of science and medicine, or with an interest in poetry. It may be of particular interest to teachers, students, researchers, scientists, miners and those who work in heritage.

Participants will:

  • Explore key aspects of Davy’s life, career and the times in which he lived
  • Investigate the relationships that can exist between science and the arts
  • Identify the role that science can play in society
  • Assess the cultural and political function of science

No prior knowledge of Humphry Davy’s life and times is required.

The course, run in conjunction with FutureLearn, starts on October 30 and enrolment is now open.