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Humphry Davy

Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829) discovered several new elements, including magnesium, calcium, strontium, and barium. Humphry Davy was born on December 17, 1778 in Penzance, Cornwall, England. He became an apprentice to a surgeon-apothecary to support his family when his father died in 1794. Throughout his life he devoted most of his studies and research to electrochemistry. <ref>the Woordow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, http://www.woodrow.org/teachers/ci/1992/Davy.html</ref>

He also discovered a process later called electrolysis when he passed electrical current through some substances which then decomposed. In 1813, Sir Humphry Davy created a giant battery in the basement of Britain's Royal Society. The voltage generated was related to the reactivity of the electrolyte with the metal, thus Davy understood that the electrolysis and of the voltaic pile were the same. This lead him to believe that elements of a chemical compounds are held together by electrical forces. Using electrolysis, Davy discovered barium, magnesium, strontium, and calcium in 1808. He later developed a method of separating potassium from sodium, based on the solubility of NaClO4 (sodium perchlorate) and the insolubility of KClO4 (potassium perchlorate) that were in 97% alcohol.

In the December of 1811, Davy hired Michael Faraday as an assistant, since in the previous October Davy had been temporarily blinded by an explosion in his laboratory, and he needed help. When Faraday achieved the first liquefaction of chlorine, Davy opposed to honoring him and claimed that he himself deserved credit for the success. Later on, Davy said he opposed because he believed that William Wollaston (1766-1828) had already discovered electromagnetic rotation before Faraday. Davy's demonstrations and lectures were well presented and became a popular social event. He also wrote a book on agricultural chemistry, and his first Bakerian Lecture won a prize from Napoleon, even though war was waging between France and England at the time.

In 1827, Davy became ill, an illness that was later concluded to be a result from inhaling many gases over his lifetime. In 1829 he moved to Rome, where he suffered a heart attack. Sir Humphry Davy died on May 29, 1829 in Geneva, Switzerland. <ref>Corrosion Doctors, Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829)




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