Humphry Davy’s Inventions

Ruston, Sharon (2023) Humphry Davy’s Inventions. Romanticism. ISSN 1354-991X (In Press)

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This essay looks at Sir Humphry Davy’s discussion of the differences between poetry and science in his unpublished, manuscript notebooks and compares them to his lectures and published writings. Davy’s notebooks reveal that he wrote lines of poetry and records of his chemical experiments on the same page while in his laboratory. Despite this, he clearly felt the need to defend ‘Science’ against the more accepted and fashionable ‘Poetry’. In an inversion of our current contemporary situation, poetry was more highly valued and regarded than science in Davy’s society. The essay demonstrates that Davy uses the terms of literary Romanticism to ‘invent’ science as a discipline, finding it equally creative and innovative. He employs poetic metaphor to define the scientific endeavour and argues forcefully for science’s greater access to a language of permanence, fact and truth.

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20 Mar 2023 08:10
In Press
Last Modified:
17 Sep 2023 03:25