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Who said: “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”
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Edmund Davy
(1785 - 5 Nov 1857)

English chemist who discovered acetylene gas. He spent some time assisting his cousin, Humphry Davy, in his chemical researches at the Royal Institution.

Edmund Davy

(1785 - 5 Nov 1857)

English chemist who was a professor of Chemistry at Cork Institution from 1813 and professor of chemistry at the Royal Dublin Society from 1826. He discovered acetylene, as it was later named by Berthelot.

Chemistry of Spongy Platinum

Edmund Davy was the first to discover a spongy form of platinum with remarkable gas absorptive properties. Justus Liebig later prepared this in a purer form able to absorb up to 250 times its volume of oxygen gas.

Further, Edmund Davy discovered that even at room temperature, finely divided platinum would light up from heat in the presence of a mixture of coal gas and air. In another such experiment, in 1820, he found that with the platinum, alcohol vapours were converted to acetic acid. (Humphrey Davy had discovered a few years earlier that a hot platinum wire lit up in a mixture of coal gas and air.)

This release of energy from oxidation of the compounds, without flame, and without change in the platinum itself, was a sign of the catalytic property of platinum investigated later by Johann Döbereiner and other chemists.

Corrosion Chemistry

In 1829, Edmund Davy found that the use of zinc blocks would prevent corrosion of the iron structure of buoys.

This is an example of cathodic protection, an electrochemical technique developed five years earlier by Humphry Davy to prevent galvanic corrosion. He had recommended that the Admiralty should attach iron blocks to protect the copper sheathing on the hulls of Navy vessels. (The method was shortly discontinued because of an unfortunate side effect - the speed of the ships was reduced by increased fouling by marine life. The protective method reduced the release of copper ions that had otherwise poisoned the organisms and controlled their growth.)


In 1836, Edmund Davy discovered a gas which he recognised as "a new carburet of hydrogen." It was an accidental discovery while attempting to isolate potassium metal. By heating potassium carbonate with carbon at very high temperatures, he produced a residue of what is now known as potassium carbide, (K2C2), which reacted with water to release the new gas. (A similar reaction between calcium carbide and water was subsequently widely used for the manufacture of acetylene.)

Thereafter it was forgotten until Marcellin Berthelot rediscovered this hydrocarbon compound in 1860, for which he coined the name “acetylene.”

The Davy Family

Edmund Davy was a cousin of Humphry Davy, the famous chemist who also invented the Davy lamp for the safety of miners. Edmund spent some time as Humphry's research assistant in his chemistry laboratory at the Royal Institution. When, in October 1807, Humphry accomplished the electrolytic preparation of potassium and sodium, Edmund described that his cousin was so delighted with this achievement that he danced about the room in ecstasy.

Humphry Davy's younger brother, Dr. John Davy, also was a chemist who spent some time assisting Humphry in his chemistry research at the Royal Institution. John was the first to prepare and name phosgene gas.

Edmund William Davy (born in 1826), son of Edmund Davy became professor of medicine in the Royal College, Dublin, in 1870.

Written by the Webmaster, and contributed TO Wikipedia.

See also:
  • Science Quotes by Edmund Davy.
  • 5 Nov - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Davy's death.
  • 17 Dec - short biography, births, deaths and events on Humphry Davy's date of birth.
  • 24 May - short biography, births, deaths and events on John Davy's date of birth.

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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