1st Edition. FIRST EDITIONS OF THREE 1816 papers by Humphrey Davy on his newly invented and quite famous safety lamp for use in mines, here translated into French and extracted from Bulletin de la Société d'encouragement pour l'industrie nationale, Vol. 142 April 1816. Historians often note that Davy’s invention of 1815 and 1816 might possibly have rescued the Industrial Revolution.
The papers have been bound in modern paper wraps with paper labels on the front wrap and at the spine. Also included is the French translation of a paper by George Stephenson who was also quite involved in the invention of safety lamps – an issue of such import in Britain that a prize had been offered for the development of a lamp safe enough to be used in flammable atmospheres.
"Two great events amazed Britain in 1815: the victory of Wellington over Napoleon and the victory of Davy over mine gases. The Industrial Revolution was in danger of stalling in the early 19th c. due to the dangers in mining with contemporary lamps that used flame and ignited explosions. A disaster near Newcastle in 1812 killed 101 miners, and more than two-thirds of the coal mines in England were considered too dangerous to work because of their levels of coal gas.
"In 1815 Davy was invited by the Chairman of a 'Society for Preventing Accidents in Coal Mines' to invent a solution... Davy had earlier studied flames and their propagation and noted that flames could not propagate through small holes. Thus his solution was merely to surround the lamp with a cylinder of wire mesh that still left the flame open to the atmosphere. The mesh conducted away the heat of the flame, thus cooling it so that the temperature methane would encounter at the lamp would be lower than its flash point. The flame itself could not penetrate the mesh...Although the flame and combustible gas were in open contact, there would be no explosion" (Greenberg, A Chemical History Tour, 184-185).
Regarding the Stepheson paper and lamp, “Despite his lack of scientific knowledge, engine-wright George Stephenson devised a lamp in which the air entered via tiny holes, through which the flames of the lamp could not pass. A month before Davy presented his design to the Royal Society, Stephenson demonstrated his own lamp to two witnesses by taking it down Killingworth Colliery and holding it in front of a fissure from which firedamp was issuing” (Wikipedia). For his invention, Davy was awarded the Rumford Societies’ medal and £2000; Stephenson was accused of stealing Davy’s ideas, but a committee exonerated him and awarded him £1000.
While Davy and Stephenson’s inventions made it possible to work in mines and in the presence of methane gas – thus the argument that the lamps saved the Industrial Revolution – one of many ironies is that the lamps, despite making it possible to work in mines, actually led to an increase in mine accidents as mining companies now encouraged workers to enter mines previously closed for a wide variety of safety violations. Mining companies were pleased because coal could now be mined more consistently, this even though many more people now died while doing so.
ALSO INCLUDED: Another paper on mining is also included: Moyen de prévenir la détonation du gaz hydrogène dans les mines de houille; par le docteur Murray (pp. 97-98). Item #723
CONDITION & DETAILS: Quarto. 11 x 9 inches. Davy’s first paper is accompanied by a large fold-out copperplate engraving. The plates have minor foxing and toning. The text and wraps are bright and clean. Very good condition.