Humphrey Davy was not quite sure about religion but sometimes he thought of it like this: A caterpillar on a leaf cannot move very far and it is not very beautiful. It has no idea what it is going to turn into. Later it becomes a butterfly which is much more beautiful and is free to fly where it wants. Perhaps it is like that for us. When we are living on earth our lives may not always be very happy or exciting but when we die we go on to a life which is very much better.

Picture of caterpillar and butterfly

Now Jesus tells us to love others and help them. Humphrey Davy tried to do this. There was a disaster at a coal mine at Felling. Felling is part of Gateshead which is near to Newcastle. There was a gas called methane which was there in the mine. One of the miners' lamps had set fire to the gas and this caused the explosion. Many miners were killed. It was important to stop this from happening again but this was difficult. There were no electric lamps at the time. The miners needed light to work and the miners' lamps would have to have flames. This meant that the lamps needed air to burn and if air could get to the flames so could methane gas.

                                                                                                          Picture of flame burning above gauze

Now Humphrey Davy was a scientist and he thought hard about how to solve the problem. He knew of an experiment which gave a clue to the answer.

In this experiment a wire gauze is held above a Bunsen burner. The gas is turned on. A burning match is held above the gauze. The gas burns above the gauze but there is no flame below the gauze. The gas can pass through the gauze but the flame cannot. This is because the wire gauze conducts the heat away. 



There is a strange things about the lamp. The gas can still get in but when it does, it burns on the inside of the gauze. The flame cannot get out. This means that if you look at the lamp and see the gas burning on the inside you know that there is gas in the mine.

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Picture of Miner's lamp 

Humphrey built a safety lamp. The burner was surrounded by wire gauze so the flame could not get out. In fact he put 2 layers of gauze around the burner to make absolutely sure. Then he wanted to test the lamp so he went to a pit where he knew there was gas. It was so dangerous that the miners had not taken lamps with them but they were trying to work in the dark. He lit the safety lamp and went into the mine. The miners were terrified. Surely there would be an explosion. But nothing happened and in time they saw that this lamp was quite safe. 

 After this, hundreds of these lamps were made and they never caused an explosion in a mine. The lives of hundreds of miners were saved.

Now Humphrey could have patented the lamp. He could have told the patent office that he had invented it and he would have been paid for each of the lamps that were sold. He did not do this because it would have made the lamps more expensive. He said that he knew that he had saved a lot of lives and this was his reward.


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