Davy Lamp, 1815.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Various forms of the safety lamp invented by the British chemist Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) in 1815. The Davy lamp was the first miners' safety lamp. It consisted of a cylinder of wire gauze attached to an iron frame containing a wick and an oil reservoir. Miners worked by the light of candles or other naked flames during the 18th century, but these could ignite 'firedamp'; a gas found in deep mines. After an explosion, killing 92 men and boys, Davy was asked for his help. The Davy lamp was surrounded by gauze, intended to cool the temperature of the flame, thereby enabling gaseous seams to be mined without the risk of explosion.