'Explosion of Fire-damp', 1869.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Accidents such as this were caused by firedamp - methane and other flammable gases, often mixed with air. The decomposition of coal and other carbonaceous materials caused this phenomenon, made more dangerous by naked flames used in mining before the invention of Sir Humphry Davy's (1778-1829) safety lamp. Illustration from 'Underground life, or, Mines and miners' by Louis Simonin (1830-1886), published in London in 1869.