Davy the Dandy

Humphry Davy

Humphrey Davy’s Sexual Chemistry is a fascinating article. A bit of backtracking lead me to Jan Golinsky’s publications page, which has a couple more books to add to my list: Making Natural Knowledge : Constructivism and the History of Science and Science as Public Culture: Chemistry and Enlightenment in Britain. I’ve thought for a long time that Davy doesn’t get his due in histories of photography, but I didn’t know he was such a shrewd rhetorician when dealing with the ladies.

Back in 2002, I wrote about Davy’s photographic experiments in relation to silhouettes. Now, I see a strange affinity between Davy’s investigations into electrochemistry and the speculations of Hunt and Draper regarding light as “chemical rays.” For Davy, electricity was power. For Hunt, light was power. For both, control of these elemental forces was central to the investigations of “man” in natural philosophy.

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