A Man of Science and a Poet: Humphry Davy's Letters, Life, and Legacy

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: English and Creative Writing

Abstract

Through this Fellowship I will complete the final two volumes of The Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy for Oxford University Press as well as engaging in other related activities.

Davy was the foremost 'Man of Science' of his day. He isolated more chemical elements than any individual has before or since. Between October and December 1815, Humphry Davy invented a miners' safety lamp that came to be known as the Davy Lamp. This invention saved countless lives when it was used in Britain and Europe and vastly improved industrial capability. He also had a fascinating life, rising up through the social ranks to become the President of the Royal Society from relatively humble origins and suffering the prejudice that accompanied this rise. His politics and religious beliefs also changed from radical to conservative as his career progressed. But, he was also a Poet: for the whole of his life he wrote poetry, much of which will be published for the first time in the Collected Letters edition. For these reasons, he is an excellent figure to illustrate the impact that society and culture has upon science. It becomes clear from Davy's letters that science is a part of culture; the kinds of experiments that he performs, the methods that he uses, and the relationship that his chemistry has to his poetry, demonstrate that science is influenced by culture, history, and politics.

Despite the fact that Davy is such an important figure, his letters are almost entirely unpublished. This Fellowship will allow me to edit and annotate the already transcribed letters of Volumes III and IV of the first scholarly edition, identifying who he wrote to, the progress of his chemical discoveries, and his views on poetry, among other things. This work would be disseminated and interpreted at three public events that would be delivered to different audiences. At the Wordsworth Trust, in Grasmere, I will follow a public talk on the Collected Letters with a workshop on the importance of letters in the past and now. At the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the partner of this project, I will give an evening talk in the very lecture theatre in which Davy himself lectured, specifically thinking about how Davy's position as a chemist and a poet can make us reconsider the relationship between science and literature in today's society. At the Woodhorn Museum in Ashington (formerly known as the Woodhorn Colliery Museum), I will give a third public talk, this time as part of the Northumberland History Fair. I will also collaborate with the educational team at Woodhorn to create a day workshop based on the findings of the letters, which also utilises the archive holdings and mining buildings at the museum. The team will deliver this workshop ten times across the autumn of 2016, offering it to local primary schools and eventually reaching 300 pupils.

After the first year of the Fellowship, which will mainly be spent annotating the letters, I will spend part of my time for six months creating and producing a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC). This will teach a huge, global audience about Davy, his letters, his life, and his legacy. The course will be filmed partly on location at the Royal Institution and will explore - through the example of Davy - the larger issues that this Fellowship addresses. Throughout the whole period of the Fellowship I will be working on developing my own capacities as a research leader, not least in the employment, encouragement, and supervision of a full-time Research Assistant, who - among other tasks - will write two detailed, academic articles on specific aspects of Davy's letters and what these reveal that is new.

Planned Impact

The research undertaken during the period of this Fellowship will impact on a number of different groups and organisations:

1) Enhancing the research capacity, knowledge, and skills of third-sector organisations (and economic impact):

As is clear from the Project Partner's Letter of Support, the Royal Institution of Great Britain (Ri) stands to gain from this collaboration in a number of ways. The work of the Fellowship will serve to preserve and promote the Ri's archive collections and increase knowledge of the history of this important institution. The Fellowship will publicise the work of the Ri; it will attract more visitors to the building itself (for tours or events) and encourage people to visit the Ri's TV channel. The Fellowship develops an existing successful collaboration and continues to extend the Ri's research capacity beyond science into the field of literary studies.

The Wordsworth Trust and Woodhorn Museum will similarly benefit from the public events planned at their sites. The Woodhorn Museum events will enhance visitors' experience of the museum, while the Wordsworth Trust will be adding to and expanding an already established interest in letter writing in the early nineteenth century and in its holdings of manuscript letters. All three organisations struggle financially and will benefit economically from the increased footfall associated with these events.

2) Enhancing cultural enrichment and, thus, quality of life for local communities and the wider public, while also increasing public engagement with research and societal issues.

A number of different kinds of communities and publics will interact and engage with the research produced during this Fellowship. I will reach local and regional audiences (north-east for Woodhorn; north-west for the Wordsworth Trust); a metropolitan audience (at the Ri in London); and a global audience (with the MOOC). I will reach school children and their teachers with the Woodhorn events; an audience generally aged 50+ at the Wordsworth Trust; and an age-diverse audience at the Ri, which is made up of slightly more men than women, with a fair proportion working in or studying science, according to the Ri's Public Programmes report for September 2013 to August 2014. Lancaster University has found that MOOC participants tend to be what are known as 'leisure learners'. On a previous Lancaster University MOOC, over 70% of the participants were international and from all over the world. FutureLearn reports that current MOOC audiences are made up of nearly 60% women, with an even distribution of ages between 18 and 65. 24% of learners do not have degrees already; 49% of learners are working full time; and 56% of learners had not taken an online course before this one.

Davy is a significant figure to British national heritage (see Case for Support) and this Fellowship will increase knowledge of his legacy to science and society. Audiences will gain an enriched understanding of Britain's industrial past and of scientific achievement. They will also find their preconceptions of scientists challenged and potentially transformed: Davy wrote poetry throughout his life that has a vital and generative relationship to his chemistry. Learning about this will encourage people to rethink some of their ideas about the division of arts and sciences into 'two cultures' and persuade them of the importance of the arts and humanities. Beyond Davy, the Fellowship will engage people in dialogue about the relationships between the arts and science. This will ensure that the public has a role in shaping discussion about the future directions that research might take in this area. I hope that the people I meet and talk to in person, or reach through the school workshops or the MOOC, will feel enriched by the experience of learning about Davy, empowered to identify and question the various agenda of science today, and proud of their regional and/or national heritage.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description While Humphry Davy (1775-1829) remains one of the best known British chemists of the early nineteenth century, only c. 250 letters are currently in the public domain, and these are often given in part rather than in full. The Oxford University Press edition of Davy's collected letters, which this AHRC Leaders' Fellowship has enabled, will increase this fivefold: we have c. 1200 letters written by Davy that have been located and transcribed from archives around the world. The edition will be groundbreaking in a number of ways. To take just one example, there is an entirely unpublished collection of 53 letters from Davy to John Hodgson, who was the rector of the parish that included Felling Colliery where a terrible mining disaster killed 92 men and boys in 1812. This disaster, and Hodgson's published account of it, encouraged coal mine owners to contact Davy and ask whether he might be able to help. Davy's wire gauze miners' safety lamp, the Davy lamp, was the result of his investigations. Davy's letters from the period 1815-17 trace the development of his lamp; his innovations with the gauze that were inspired by wire workers in Kendal, and his continued experiments with the size of the apertures and the thickness of the wire. The letters also reveal his response to the accusations of plagiarism levelled at him by George Stephenson and William Reid Clanny by anonymous and pseudonymous letters written to the regional and national press. These letters are often intensely private and angry: close analysis of the manuscripts reveal crossings out and insertions over the line that demonstrate his precarious mental state. The letters also demonstrate the lengths to which he went to rubbish Stephenson's designs and crush his claim to priority. This is only one example of many, but given that the lamp is by far Davy's most famous invention, perhaps it is the most important.

I would like to note here that I passed my Institute of Leadership and Management course (ILM) level 5 today (15/3/17) as promised in my proposal for the fellowship.
Exploitation Route The letters currently exist (without notes) in a website (http://www.davy-letters.org.uk/) and I have had numerous academics contact me to say that they have used them in publications (articles, essays and books). The letters have also been used in this way by the co-editors, Advisory Editors, and Research Assistant on the Davy Letters project. The final event of the AHRC Leaders Fellowship is the 'Using the Davy Letters' Symposium, to be held at the Royal Institution in April 2017. I am hopeful that the papers from this will be published in a special edition of the journal Ambix (Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry). The Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) which is currently being filmed and put together will run in October 2017 for the first time; this makes use of selected letters and the research that has gone into the annotation of these letters.
I always intended for the AHRC Leaders Fellowship to be a step to the next, big project. The Royal Institution holds c. 50 notebooks of Humphry Davy. I have been given teaching relief for the summer term of 2017-2018 to write a research bid that would collaborate with the Royal Institution in the transcription and annotation of these notebooks. The work on the letters when completed will allow us to properly date the entries in these notebooks, which include the poetry, chemical experiments, travel writings, geological surveys, illustrations, biographical information, philosophical musings, and draft lecture notes of one of the most fascinating figures of the early nineteenth century.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.davy-letters.org.uk/
 
Description Taken together, the programme of public engagement activities enabled by this award has achieved a significant degree of impact beyond academia, and has had a demonstrably positive effect on the lives of several key groups of non-academic stakeholders. The public talks (at the Keats-Shelley House, Rome; Duke's Theatre, Lancaster; the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere; and the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London) disseminated new, original research findings from the duration of the award to a range of distinct audiences (both in geographic and demographic terms), most of whom would not normally benefit from the publication of an expensive, relatively small-run scholarly edition of letters. From the feedback gathered at these events, there is clear evidence of changes in the views, opinions, or behaviours of the participants and/or audience members. Several participants/audience members also commented on, and expressed gratitude for, the societal benefit of participating in/attending public talks and workshops. The schools visits (to Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland), the teaching materials for which were directly informed by my research on Davy carried out during the period of the award, achieved an even greater degree of impact: all of the school groups participating in these activities were drawn from one of the UK's most economically deprived areas (as indicated by, for example, a high proportion of pupils being eligible for the Pupil Premium), and, from the feedback received from both teachers and pupils, the benefit, both educational and societal, derived from these visits is clearly in evidence. Several of the children who benefited from these activities had never visited a museum or gallery before; that many of the children living with the socioeconomic problems caused by the decline of industrial society have so obviously enjoyed and benefited from exploring their local industrial heritage is particularly pleasing. Many of the venues/institutions that hosted these events have benefited also, in raised public awareness of their programmes of activities, and in the increased footfall during such events. The impact achieved during the period of the award does not end here: a further institutional award (Impact and Knowledge Exchange Grant) is expanding the roll-out of talks and workshops (based on the successful Wordsworth Trust talk and workshop model), and the schools work is developing by means of a 'Letters and the Lamp' website and teaching materials pack for the use of Key Stage 2 teachers and pupils, to be offered to other mining/industrial museums in the UK alongside Woodhorn. This Impact and Knowledge Exchange work stems directly from the AHRC award; as such, the funding provided for 'A Man of Science and a Poet: Humphry Davy's Letters, Life, and Legacy' has not only enabled impact over the period of the award, but is also enabling it in the present, and will continue to enable it in the future.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants
Amount £9,947 (GBP)
Funding ID SG162243 
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2017 
End 08/2017
 
Description BSLS Small Grants
Amount £378 (GBP)
Organisation British Society for Literature and Science 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 11/2017
 
Description Crowdsourced Transcriptions of Humphry Davy's Notebooks
Amount £78,758 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/S008055/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 12/2019
 
Description FASS IKE
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2016 
End 07/2017
 
Description Friends' Programme
Amount £800 (GBP)
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 12/2018 
End 01/2019
 
Description Impact Fund
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation Lancaster University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 10/2017
 
Description Research Grant
Amount £750 (GBP)
Organisation Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Unknown
Start 10/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description Scouloudi Historical Awards
Amount £400 (GBP)
Organisation Scouloudi Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 04/2017
 
Description Short-term Fellowship
Amount $6,000 (USD)
Organisation Chemical Heritage Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 06/2017 
End 08/2017
 
Description Article for The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I wrote a piece for The Conversation: ''Sir Humphry Davy used poetry and theatre to bring science to life', which was published on 21st September 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://theconversation.com/sir-humphry-davy-used-poetry-and-theatre-to-bring-science-to-life-84391
 
Description Edit-a-thon 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Humphry Davy Wikipedia Edit-a-thon at Lancaster University 4 May 2017

7 people attended this event (10 people including Professor Sharon Ruston, Dr Mark MacDonald, and Dr Andrew Lacey, all of whom also participated), during which improvements and additions were made to Humphry Davy's Wikipedia page.

15 areas of improvement were identified in advance: Davy's early life; Davy's poetry (the Annual Anthology poems and 'Life'); Davy at the Medical Pneumatic Institution; Davy's involvement with Lyrical Ballads and William Wordsworth; Davy isolates potassium, sodium, and boron; Davy isolates magnesium, calcium, strontium, and barium; Davy demonstrates chlorine to be an element; Davy's European travels c. 1814; Davy demonstrates iodine to be an element; Davy's work on the safety lamp, and the ensuing controversy 1; Davy's work on the safety lamp, and the ensuing controversy 2; Davy's work on Herculaneum papyri; Davy's Presidency of the Royal Society; Davy's work on the electrochemical protection of ships' copper bottoms; and Davy's later life. Printed resource packs were provided to supplement a list of online resources; some participants also identified useful resources online themselves. At the start of the event, participants were given brief introductions to Davy and to editing Wikipedia; over the remainder of the four hours, participants made their Wikipedia edits, which resulted in a clear improvement of several areas of Davy's Wikipedia page: 36 edits were made over the course of the day, as existing sections on Davy's life and work were improved, and new material was added to new sections, and to other Wikipedia pages (e.g. on the Herculaneum papyri). One participant also continued to improve their section after the event.

Despite promoting this event to a variety of people and groups external to the University (e.g. local libraries; local U3A groups and other senior learners' groups; local arts venues), i.e. the main target audience, using a variety of means (distribution of posters and flyers by e-mail and by hand; promotion through the Davy Letters Project website; promotion through social media channels such as Twitter; promotion through the University Press Office; promotion through local news/events outlets; promotion through word of mouth), all of the people who attended were affiliated to Lancaster University, either as staff or students. That this event did not reach its main target audience, and that the total number of participants also fell short of the ideal total of 15, are likely due to a combination of factors, including: the 'experimental' nature of edit-a-thon events, which are a relatively new type of event, only a very limited number of HEIs having run them to date; the lack of an established, local Wikipedia editorial community to appeal to; local factors, such as the geographical situation of the campus (i.e. several miles from the city); and other general factors, such as holding the event on a weekday, when potential participants may have work/other commitments preventing attendance.

In spite of the conclusion that this event did not reach its target audience, those who attended the event clearly found it useful and enjoyable, and the feedback received from the participants was positive. Comments included: 'Run very well, I have learned a lot about coding and lots that I didn't know I didn't know'; 'I thought it was interesting to learn how to edit Wikipedia articles. Also I thought Humphry Davy was interesting to learn about'; and 'Very little room for improvement'. Discounting one frivolous answer, all of those who provided feedback would be happy to participate in similar edit-a-thon events in future, so there is a basis from which to proceed. In summary, there is clearly an appetite for further edit-a-thon type events among the Lancaster University community, but a rethink is needed as to how such events might be made to appeal to the wider community external to the University.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humphry_Davy
 
Description Glynwood Primary School visit to Woodhorn Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 50 primary school children (Key Stage 2) attended this school's visit to Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland. A range of activities, designed by the Museum after prior consultation with me, were pursued, including: archival work (analysis of nineteenth-century mining accident data from north-east England, leading on to discussion of the dangers associated with mining and hence the necessity for a means of risk-reduction (i.e. miners' safety lamp); discussion of letters by Davy and Stephenson on the safety lamp controversy; discussion of balance of credit (Davy vs Stephenson) for the invention of their lamp (Davy vs Stephenson); visual art work (studying and discussing the mid-twentieth century work of the Ashington Group (i.e. 'Pitmen Painters') held in the Museum; creating an 'underground' drawing of their own, and a 'object study' painting of a safety lamp); and a tour of the Museum buildings (including the preserved heavy mining equipment, e.g. pit wheel and large extractor fan). Many of the children in attendance, from schools in one of the UK's most economically deprived regions, had no prior knowledge of Davy or Stephenson, and very little knowledge of mining in the nineteenth century; some had also never visited a museum prior to this.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Humphry Davy Letters Symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact 'Using the Davy Letters' symposium at the Royal Institution of Great Britain 22 Apr 2017. 25 people attended this one-day symposium, at which 8 papers were presented: Professor David Knight spoke (via video) on 'Sources and resources for Davy: 1960 and now'; Dr Andrew Lacey on 'New Light on John Davy'; Professor Frank James on 'What Davy did in Bristol'; Professor Tim Fulford on 'The Volcanic Humphry Davy'; Dr Corinna Guerra on 'Davy and Vesuvius'; Harriet Lloyd on 'Keeping up with the Davys'; Professor Jan Golinski on 'Humphry's Letters to Jane: Travel, Health, and Care of the Self'; and Professor Sharon Ruston on 'Humphry Davy: Patents, Priority and Poetry'. Each pair of papers was followed by a Q&A session. During the lunch break, during which informal discussion continued, participants were given the opportunity to view the RI's museum exhibits, and to view Davy MSS in the Archive. The feedback received was exclusively positive. Responses to the question 'Has today's event changed your understanding of Davy, his circle, or the networks of which he was part, and, if so, how?' included: 'Very good day - and increased my understanding of [Davy's] life & times - all good, a fantastic day'; 'Yes, completely. Every time I hear something about Davy and his circle I learn many new things. Particularly interesting hearing about it from the "literary" points of view (being a scientist)'; and 'Learning more about John + Jane was invaluable, as was learning more about the connections between Davy + others like Southey [] and Children'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Humphry Davy MOOC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I created and ran the Massive Open Online Course (with FutureLearn) 'Humphry Davy: Laughing Gas, Literature, and the Lamp' for four weeks from 30 October 2017. There were 2633 joiners and 1620 active learners. The MOOC has provided me with a huge amount of evidence of engagement and impact. In many of the sections the question was asked: 'How has this session/event/activity changed your mind about Davy?' Some examples of answers given include:
'I have increased my admiration for Davy tenfold. I find it inspiring that he used poetry to explore his emotions, thoughts and observations.'
'A big thank you to Professor Rushton and the team. This has been a thoroughly enjoyable course, I certainly have learnt more science in the last four weeks than in the last decade.'
'I'd heard about nitrous oxide, as used in the medical field. I'd heard of a Davy lamp. But this course has brought alive to me the human side of science in Davy's time. Poetry is not fiction to me. It expresses deeper truths. This course has linked so much together in my mind. I am most grateful.'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/humphry-davy/1
 
Description Interview for Big Issue North 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed by Antonia Charlesworth for a feature on the science in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The piece came out on the 15th January 2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bigissuenorth.com/features/2018/01/creature-discomforts/
 
Description Interview for Radio 4 programme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed by Sir Christopher Frayling for the Radio 4 programme - Archive on 4 - about the 200 year anniversary of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, specifically about the science in the novel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09lvy6l
 
Description Kibblesworth Academy visit to Woodhorn Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 38 primary school children (Key Stage 2) attended this school's visit to Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland. A range of activities, designed by the Museum after prior consultation with me, were pursued, including: archival work (analysis of nineteenth-century mining accident data from north-east England, leading on to discussion of the dangers associated with mining and hence the necessity for a means of risk-reduction (i.e. miners' safety lamp); discussion of letters by Davy and Stephenson on the safety lamp controversy; discussion of balance of credit (Davy vs Stephenson) for the invention of their lamp (Davy vs Stephenson); visual art work (studying and discussing the mid-twentieth century work of the Ashington Group (i.e. 'Pitmen Painters') held in the Museum; creating an 'underground' drawing of their own, and a 'object study' painting of a safety lamp); and a tour of the Museum buildings (including the preserved heavy mining equipment, e.g. pit wheel and large extractor fan). Many of the children in attendance, from schools in one of the UK's most economically deprived regions, had no prior knowledge of Davy or Stephenson, and very little knowledge of mining in the nineteenth century; some had also never visited a museum prior to this. This event clearly made a positive difference to those in attendance; some of the written feedback included: 'The children really enjoyed it and [were] very engaged throughout. [Everything was explained] in a very informative and age appropriate manner. Great mix/range of activities' (teacher); 'It was really interesting ... I loved being able to explore the whole place' (pupil); 'There was lots to do here and it was fun and I want to come again' (pupil); '[I liked] getting to see all the machinery they used and also seeing documents [in the archive]. Also I enjoyed everything' (pupil). 100% of school children indicated that their visit to Woodhorn made them feel happy (by circling a face on their feedback form indicating 'happy', 'indifferent', or 'sad').
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Lingey House Primary School visit to Woodhorn Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 55 primary school children (Key Stage 2) attended this school's visit to Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland. A range of activities, designed by the Museum after prior consultation with me, were pursued, including: archival work (analysis of nineteenth-century mining accident data from north-east England, leading on to discussion of the dangers associated with mining and hence the necessity for a means of risk-reduction (i.e. miners' safety lamp); discussion of letters by Davy and Stephenson on the safety lamp controversy; discussion of balance of credit (Davy vs Stephenson) for the invention of their lamp (Davy vs Stephenson); visual art work (studying and discussing the mid-twentieth century work of the Ashington Group (i.e. 'Pitmen Painters') held in the Museum; creating an 'underground' drawing of their own, and a 'object study' painting of a safety lamp); and a tour of the Museum buildings (including the preserved heavy mining equipment, e.g. pit wheel and large extractor fan). Many of the children in attendance, from schools in one of the UK's most economically deprived regions, had no prior knowledge of Davy or Stephenson, and very little knowledge of mining in the nineteenth century; some had also never visited a museum prior to this.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Parkhead Primary School visit to Woodhorn Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 42 primary school children (Key Stage 2) attended this school's visit to Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland. A range of activities, designed by the Museum after prior consultation with me, were pursued, including: archival work (analysis of nineteenth-century mining accident data from north-east England, leading on to discussion of the dangers associated with mining and hence the necessity for a means of risk-reduction (i.e. miners' safety lamp); discussion of letters by Davy and Stephenson on the safety lamp controversy; discussion of balance of credit (Davy vs Stephenson) for the invention of their lamp (Davy vs Stephenson); visual art work (studying and discussing the mid-twentieth century work of the Ashington Group (i.e. 'Pitmen Painters') held in the Museum; creating an 'underground' drawing of their own, and a 'object study' painting of a safety lamp); and a tour of the Museum buildings (including the preserved heavy mining equipment, e.g. pit wheel and large extractor fan). Many of the children in attendance, from schools in one of the UK's most economically deprived regions, had no prior knowledge of Davy or Stephenson, and very little knowledge of mining in the nineteenth century; some had also never visited a museum prior to this. This event clearly made a positive difference to those in attendance; some of the written feedback included: '[I] was surprised by the children's enjoyment of archives' (teacher); '[The most surprising/interesting thing was] finding out stuff about Humphry Davy and George Stephenson' (pupil); '[The most surprising/interesting thing was] looking at documents' (pupil); and 'I liked it all' (pupil). 87.5% of school children indicated that their visit to Woodhorn made them feel happy (by circling a face on their feedback form indicating 'happy', 'indifferent', or 'sad').
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Podcast - Little Atoms 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was interviewed for this podcast on the science in Frankenstein, and specifically on Humphry Davy's influence on the novel. The podcast was released on 7th November 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.mixcloud.com/NTSRadio/electric-enlightenment-w-little-atoms-9th-november-2017/
 
Description Public Talk and Workshop at the Wordsworth Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 24 people attended this talk, which discussed: the role of letter writing compared to other forms of communication, such as e-mail; Davy's life and career, as a man of science and a man of letters, specifically focusing on his relationships with other 'Lakers' including Wordsworth and Coleridge and his work on the miners' safety lamp; issues surrounding the invention of his safety lamp, including the necessity of its invention and the priority dispute that followed; and what Davy's letters reveal about the safety lamp controversy. The talk was followed by a Q&A session, and a workshop (run by Dr Andrew Lacey) which focused on the study of a sample MS Davy letter, which stimulated discussion on letters and letter writing more generally. The discussion following the talk (both in the Q&A session and the workshop) was wide-ranging and engaged, and the participants made clear connections between letter writing in the early nineteenth-century and the use of various forms of communication (including letters, e-mail, and the use of newer social media) in their own lives. The feedback received was very positive, and the participants clearly gained new insights into the process and value of doing research. Some of the written feedback included: 'The event today made me think of how difficult it is to decipher the letters and how interesting the subject is'; 'Fascinating discussion investigating the example letter - it reinforced the belief that visitors to our museum would love to do enquiry into MS of this kind'; and 'Fascinating lecture and insight into the research process'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Public Talk at Duke's Theatre, Lancaster 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 102 people attended this talk, which discussed: the role of letter writing compared to other forms of communication, such as e-mail; Davy's life and career, as a man of science and a man of letters, specifically focusing on his experiments with nitrous oxide and his work on the miners' safety lamp; issues surrounding the invention of his safety lamp, including the necessity of its invention and the priority dispute that followed; and what Davy's letters reveal about the safety lamp controversy. The talk was followed by a Q&A session. The feedback received was very positive: 81.4% of respondents rated the event overall as 'Excellent', and some of the written feedback received included: 'I really enjoyed the event and it has genuinely made me go and find out more about the subject matter. The level of content was perfect - no specialist knowledge required'; 'Such a brilliant event - well organised and facilitated, and of course Sharon's lecture was magnificent. Pitch, poise and pace all expertly delivered'; and 'I found the whole experience really interesting and certainly learnt from it'. 92.86% of respondents 'Strongly Agreed' that 'I learned something new' and 'I would be interested in attending another public lecture'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qXvFEPMWA4
 
Description Public Talk at Royal Institution of Great Britain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 35 people attended this talk, which discussed: the role of letter writing compared to other forms of communication, such as e-mail; Davy's life and career, as a man of science and a man of letters, specifically focusing on his experiments with nitrous oxide and his work on the miners' safety lamp; issues surrounding the invention of his safety lamp, including the necessity of its invention and the priority dispute that followed; and what Davy's letters reveal about the safety lamp controversy. The talk was followed by a Q&A session. The feedback received was very positive: 100% of respondents 'Strongly Agreed' (60%) or 'Agreed' (40%) that 'I enjoyed the event', and 100 % 'Strongly Agreed' (80%) or 'Agreed' (20%) that 'I learnt something new'. Some of the written feedback received, which was limited, included: 'The speaker was interesting, funny, and informative'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Public Talk at Woodhorn Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 20 people attended this talk, which discussed: the role of letter writing compared to other forms of communication, such as e-mail; Davy's life and career, as a man of science and a man of letters, specifically focusing on his his work on the miners' safety lamp; issues surrounding the invention of his safety lamp, including the necessity of its invention and the priority dispute that followed; and what Davy's letters reveal about the safety lamp controversy. The talk was followed by a Q&A session. The feedback received was very positive. Some of the written feedback received included: 'Lots of fascinating insights into the scientific community, regional differences, local politics etc. Sharon really explained well the important differences between Davy's and Stephenson's lamp'; 'I knew very little about the subject matter prior to the talk so found it very interesting and informative and I would like to find out more'; and 'The event was very informative [and has] given me a push to follow up on research into mine accidents and safety in mines in the Great Northern Coalfield 1715-1915'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Second run of Davy MOOC 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The second run of the Humphry Davy with 768 joiners took place over four weeks, ending on 24/11/18.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/humphry-davy
 
Description St Josephs RC VA Primary School visit to Woodhorn Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 30 primary school children (Key Stage 2) attended this school's visit to Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland. A range of activities, designed by the Museum after prior consultation with me, were pursued, including: archival work (analysis of nineteenth-century mining accident data from north-east England, leading on to discussion of the dangers associated with mining and hence the necessity for a means of risk-reduction (i.e. miners' safety lamp); discussion of letters by Davy and Stephenson on the safety lamp controversy; discussion of balance of credit (Davy vs Stephenson) for the invention of their lamp (Davy vs Stephenson); visual art work (studying and discussing the mid-twentieth century work of the Ashington Group (i.e. 'Pitmen Painters') held in the Museum; creating an 'underground' drawing of their own, and a 'object study' painting of a safety lamp); and a tour of the Museum buildings (including the preserved heavy mining equipment, e.g. pit wheel and large extractor fan). Many of the children in attendance, from schools in one of the UK's most economically deprived regions, had no prior knowledge of Davy or Stephenson, and very little knowledge of mining in the nineteenth century; some had also never visited a museum prior to this. This event clearly made a positive difference to those in attendance; some of the written feedback included: 'Thanks [for] a really enjoyable day with a wide range of interesting and informative sessions (pitched appropriately in manageable time slots)' (teacher); '[The most surprising/interesting thing was] that there was a Geordie lamp and that the two lamp makers had argued for years over their lamps' (pupil); '[The most surprising/interesting thing was] that history is not what it seems. I loved my visit and I would love to come again' (pupil); and '[The most surprising/interesting thing was] learning new interesting facts' (pupil). 100% of school children indicated that their visit to Woodhorn made them feel happy (by circling a face on their feedback form indicating 'happy', 'indifferent', or 'sad').
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk and panel discussion at the Big Bang Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a talk and was part of a panel discussion at the Big Bang Festival in Wigtown, Dumfries from 2-4th Feb 2018. There were c. 50 people in the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://wigtownbookfestival.com/opportunities/bigbangweekend
 
Description Talk and workshop at Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public talk and workshop at the Lit and Phil 3 May 2017 27 people attended this talk, which discussed: the role of letter writing compared to other forms of communication, such as e-mail; Davy's life and career, as a man of science and a man of letters, specifically focusing on his work on the miners' safety lamp; issues surrounding the invention of his safety lamp, including the necessity of its invention and the priority dispute that followed; and what Davy's letters reveal about the safety lamp controversy. The talk was followed by a Q&A session, and a workshop (run by Dr Andrew Lacey) which focused on the study of a sample MS Davy letter, which stimulated discussion on letters and letter writing more generally. The discussion following the talk (both in the Q&A session and the workshop) was wide-ranging and engaged, and the participants made clear connections between letter writing in the early nineteenth-century and the use of various forms of communication (including letters, e-mail, and the use of newer social media) in their own lives. The feedback received was very positive, and the participants clearly gained new insights into the process and value of doing research. Some of the written feedback included: 'It has clarified my rather vague memory of the priority dispute about the safety lamp. I think I had known of Stephenson's lamp but was not aware of how vitriolic Davy was about him in his correspondence. [] A fascinating afternoon'; 'I very much appreciated this way of presenting archival material for a non-academic audience'; and 'Sharon and Andrew's event illuminated the significance of the North-East in scientific history in a way I had not previously considered. Furthermore, the connections drawn between "literary culture" [] and science was revealed in Sharon's comments on Davy's perception of creativity. The creativity of science is an idea which could be enormously influential to both arts and science education for the future'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at Keats-Shelley House 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 25 people attended this talk, which discussed Humphry Davy's connections with Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein. There were many questions raised after the talk and a general discussion ensued. A number of people who attended remarked that the talk had changed their ideas of the novel but also that it had increased their knowledge of early nineteenth-century scientific and medical practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Talk at Manchester City Library 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 10 people attended this talk, which discussed: the role of letter writing compared to other forms of communication, such as e-mail; Davy's life and career, as a man of science and a man of letters, specifically focusing on his work on the miners' safety lamp; issues surrounding the invention of his safety lamp, including the necessity of its invention and the priority dispute that followed; and what Davy's letters reveal about the safety lamp controversy. The talk was followed by a Q&A session, and a workshop (run by Dr Andrew Lacey) which focused on the study of a sample MS Davy letter, which stimulated discussion on letters and letter writing more generally. The discussion following the talk (both in the Q&A session and the workshop) was wide-ranging and engaged, and the participants made clear connections between letter writing in the early nineteenth-century and the use of various forms of communication (including letters, e-mail, and the use of newer social media) in their own lives. The feedback received was very positive, and the participants clearly gained new insights into the process and value of doing research. Some of the written feedback included: 'It has placed Davy's work vis a vis Stephenson & others into perspective. Thank you'; '[It] Definitely [changed my understanding]. Davy v. Stephenson was informative & intriguing. Discussion about letters was stimulating and thought provoking'; and '[It was] Enlightening. Enthused to sign up for Future Learn course on Humphry Davy'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Talk at the Science Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 19 people attended this talk, which discussed: the role of letter writing compared to other forms of communication, such as e-mail; Davy's life and career, as a man of science and a man of letters, specifically focusing on his work on the miners' safety lamp; issues surrounding the invention of his safety lamp, including the necessity of its invention and the priority dispute that followed; and what Davy's letters reveal about the safety lamp controversy. The talk was followed by a Q&A session, and a workshop (run by Dr Andrew Lacey) which focused on the study of a sample MS Davy letter, which stimulated discussion on letters and letter writing more generally. The discussion following the talk (both in the Q&A session and the workshop) was wide-ranging and engaged, and the participants made clear connections between letter writing in the early nineteenth-century and the use of various forms of communication (including letters, e-mail, and the use of newer social media) in their own lives. The feedback received was very positive, and the participants clearly gained new insights into the process and value of doing research. Some of the written feedback included: 'I knew very little about Davy other than [his] association with [the] lamp. I look forward to referring to your book & to reviewing your website. The workshop was very enjoyable. Thank you, both'; 'Prior to [today], my thoughts on Davy were [that] he invented the miners' lamp FULL STOP. Was not aware of poetry and other aspects of his life and times'; and 'It has taught me not only about the man himself but how to approach researching historical records. It has also enhanced my understanding of social & scientific & political & economical factors around something I thought of as an everyday artefact - everyday as we have a Davy lamp (hybrid?) at home. I has also shown how well a workshop can be (and has been) presented'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/about-us/collections-and-research/news-and-events/humphry%20davy
 
Description Washingwell Community Primary School visit to Woodhorn Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 28 primary school children (Key Stage 2) attended this school's visit to Woodhorn Museum, Northumberland. A range of activities, designed by the Museum after prior consultation with me, were pursued, including: archival work (analysis of nineteenth-century mining accident data from north-east England, leading on to discussion of the dangers associated with mining and hence the necessity for a means of risk-reduction (i.e. miners' safety lamp); discussion of letters by Davy and Stephenson on the safety lamp controversy; discussion of balance of credit (Davy vs Stephenson) for the invention of their lamp (Davy vs Stephenson); visual art work (studying and discussing the mid-twentieth century work of the Ashington Group (i.e. 'Pitmen Painters') held in the Museum; creating an 'underground' drawing of their own, and a 'object study' painting of a safety lamp); and a tour of the Museum buildings (including the preserved heavy mining equipment, e.g. pit wheel and large extractor fan). Many of the children in attendance, from schools in one of the UK's most economically deprived regions, had no prior knowledge of Davy or Stephenson, and very little knowledge of mining in the nineteenth century; some had also never visited a museum prior to this.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016