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Humphry Davy: Analogy, priority, and the “true philosopher”

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>3/07/2019
Issue number2-3
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)121-139
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date29/05/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This essay explores how Davy fashioned himself as, what he called in his poetry, a “true philosopher.” He defined the “true philosopher” as someone who eschewed monetary gain for his scientific work, preferring instead to give knowledge freely for the public good, and as someone working at a higher level than the mere experimentalist. Specifically, Davy presented himself as using the method of analogy to reach his discoveries and empha-sised that he understood the “principle” behind his findings. He portrayed himself as one who perceived analogies because he had a wider perspective on the world than many others in his society. The poem in which he describes the “true philosopher” offers us Davy’s private view of this character; the essay then demonstrates how Davy attempted to depict his own character in this way during critical moments in his career.