Davy and Faraday: Fathers and Sons

  • David M. Knight


It has been said of Bergman and of Davy that their greatest discoveries were Scheele and Faraday. This is a rather backhanded kind of compliment. Davy at least would not have relished it and it has a curiously reductive aspect if we group his great discoveries as Potassium, Chlorine, Faraday and the Safety Lamp and solemnly try to decide which was the greatest. The relationship of Davy and Faraday was highly ambiguous. Probably the most familiar characterisation of it is Bence Jones’s remark in his biography of Faraday, that Davy was hurt by success, that he had little self-control, method or order, and that:

he gave Faraday every opportunity of studying the example which was set before him during the journey abroad, and during their constant intercourse in the laboratory of the Royal Institution; and Faraday has been known to say that the greatest of all his great advantages was that he had a model to teach him what he should avoid.1


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  1. R. Hunt, ‘John Davy’, DNB, 14: 195–6; ‘John Davy’, Proc. Roy. Soc., 1867–8, 16: lxxix–lxxxi.Google Scholar

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© The contributors 1985

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  • David M. Knight

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