I thought I was having a few days away from the Board of Longitude at the end of May, with a trip to Cornwall for a meeting at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum. I’d forgotten that I was staying in Penzance, where Humphry Davy was born and brought up.
Davy is obviously well remembered today for his role in the development of the Davy lamp and for his chemical researches. As President of the Royal Society from 1820 to 1827, however, he was also on the Board of Longitude in its final years before being wound up in 1828, and attended regularly between 1821 and 1826. This was a period when the Board’s role was changing considerably, with new activities including involvement in committees on ship tonnage and the improvement of glass, not to mention the foundation of the Cape Observatory.
This isn’t really what Davy is remembered for in Penzance, but remembered he certainly is. There’s a display in Penlee House Gallery and Museum, which commemorates him as a ‘scientist’, as does the large statue erected right in the centre of Penzance in 1872 (close to where he was born).
Of course, there are other ways than statues to celebrate local heroes:
You’ll be glad to know I raised a half in his memory.
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