Humphry Davy: Facts About The Famous Scientist and Inventor

Here are some facts about Humphry Davy.

  • Humphry Davy was born on 17th December 1778 in Penzance, Cornwall.

  • He went to Truro Grammar School.
  • In 1794 his father died and Humprhy Davy was apprenticed to John Bingham Borlase, a surgeon from Penzance.
  • As an apprentice, Humphry became interested chemistry and carried out experiments in John Tonkin’s house, where he was boarder.
  • As a young man, Humphry Davy wrote poetry and painted landscapes.
  • In 1798, Davy became a member of the Pneumatic Institute in Bristol.
  • In Bristol he became friends with James Watt and his son Gregory, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey.
  • In 1804, Davy became a Fellow of the Royal Society. His lectures often involved dangerous experiments with different types of gas.
  • Humphry Davy was a key pioneer in the use of electrolysis to split compounds. He isolated several new elements, including potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, boron and barium.
  • In 1810, Humphry Day named chlorine, after proving that it didn’t in fact contain oxygen and was element.

Humphry Davy

  • Davy damaged his eyesight in an experiment with nitrogen trichloride. He hired Michael Faraday as a co-worker, as a result.
  • He was knighted as Sir Humphry Davy in 1812.
  • In 1813, he demonstrated that iodine was an element, and he showed that diamond is made of pure carbon.
  • He visited Alessandro Volta in Milan, Italy in 1814.
  • Davy designed his version of the safety lamp for use in coal mines. It used wire gauze to enclose the lamp’s flames, preventing the methane in the mines from igniting. The Davy Lamp worked well at first, but the gauze rusted very quickly in the mines, making it unsafe to use after a while.
  • In 1820, he was named President of the Royal Society.
  • He died in 1829 in Geneva, Switzerland. He is buried in Plainpalais Cemetery in Switzerland. There is a memorial tablet for him in Westminster Abbey, London.
  • A lunar crater has been named after him.
  • There is a Humphry Davy statue in Penzance, Cornwall.
  • He enjoyed fly-fishing and wrote a book on the subject called Salmonia.
  • Humphry Davy was addicted to nitrous oxide (laughing gas).

What next? discover some facts about other famous inventors.

Benjamin Zephaniah: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Benjamin Zephaniah.

  • Benjamin Zephaniah is a British poet and writer. In 2008, he was voted one of Britain’s top 50 post World War 2 writers, in a poll by the Times newspaper.

  • Benjamin Zephaniah was born in Birmingham in April, 1958, the son of Caribbean immigrants. He was dyslexic, and left school at 13, as he couldn’t read or write.
  • His poetry is influenced by the street culture of Jamaica. His first performance was at age 10, and by 15, he was quite well known in and around Birmingham.
  • Benjamin Zephaniah moved to London when he was 22.
  • He published his first book of poetry which sold well. He also made a name writing and reading his poems in clubs and other venues.
  • His poems seemed to capture the mood of the early 1980s in Britain, and were often about homelessness or unemployment. He was described as Britain’s most recognizable poet.
  • Zephaniah is known for his strong and often controversial beliefs and opinions. He has suggested changing the British voting system, and has publicly turned down an OBE medal.
  • His poetry book for children, Talking Turkeys, was an immediate bestseller. He has also written several novels aimed specifically at teenagers, as well as several collections of poetry.
  • In 1991, Zephaniah performed on all 6 continents in just a 3 week period.
  • He has a fan club in the central African country of Malawi, and spends part of his time in Beijing, China.
  • He has produced several records, mostly in a reggae or dub poetry style. However, he describes his album Naked as being a mix of jazz, reggae, rock and hip-hop.
  • Benjamin Zephaniah has been awarded the BBC Young Playwright’s Award, as well as honorary doctorates from several UK universities. His version of the song Tam Lyn Retold won a best song award in 2008.

What next? Discover facts about other famous poets by visiting our Books and Authors section.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

  • Giuseppe Arcimboldo was born in Milan, Italy in 1526 or 1527.
  • His father was an artist.

  • When he was in his early twenties, Giuseppe Arcimboldo designed stained glass and painted frescoes.
  • In 1562, Arcimboldo was made the portraitist to Ferdinand I. He served at the Habsburg Court in Vienna.
  • He later fulfilled the same role for Maximillian II and Rudolf II in the court in Prague.
  • During his life, Giuseppe Arcimboldo produced many works of art on religious subjects, but he is most well known for his portraits of people made up of fruit, vegetables and other objects from nature.
Autumn by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
Autumn by Giuseppe Arcimboldo
  • From a distance, these portraits look like regular portraits of human beings, but up close it is obvious that they are constructed from cleverly painted objects. The paintings are as much still life as they are portraits.
  • Giuseppe Arcimboldo died on 11th July 1593 in Milan.
  • Many of Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings were taken from the Rudolf II collection in 1648, when Sweden invaded Prague during the Thirty Years’ War.
  • Today his work can be seen in several different museums and galleries, including: the Louvre in Paris, Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado.
  • The work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo influenced the work of the surrealist painters, such as Salvador Dali.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous artists.

Captain Webb: Facts About the First Person to Swim the English Channel

Here are some facts about Captain Webb.

  • Captain Matthew Webb was a British professional swimmer. He was the first person to swim across the English Channel, the body of water between England and France.
  • Captain Webb was born in Shropshire in 1848, one of 12 children. He joined the merchant navy when he was 12, and learned to swim in the River Severn near his home.

  • Webb tried to rescue a man overboard by diving into the Atlantic Ocean, while sailing from New York to Liverpool. He was given a medal and £100 although the man was never found.
  • He swam from Dover to Calais in just under 22 hours on the 25th August, 1875. Two weeks earlier, he gave up on his first attempt because of strong winds.
  • Webb covered himself in porpoise fat before entering the water.
  • Because the currents blew him off course, he ended up covering a distance of about 64 km.

Captain Webb

  • After his success, Captain Webb made the most of his fame. His name appeared on a brand of matches, and he also endorsed books, pottery and various other products.
  • He gave up his naval career to focus on swimming. He competed in swimming competitions all over the United States, beating the current champion in a competition at Nantasket Beach, Massachusetts.
  • Webb also took part in several stunts, including floating in a tank of water for 128 hours. He wrote a best-selling book called The Art of Swimming and enjoyed world wide fame.
  • In July, 1883 Captain Webb tried to swim through the Whirlpool Rapids near Niagara Falls. He died while attempting the dangerous swim and was buried in nearby Oakwood Cemetery.
  • A memorial to Webb in his home village of Dawley, Shropshire reads — Nothing great is easy.
  • The Captain Webb pub in Telford is named after the famous swimmer.

What next? Discover some facts about other famous Victorians by visiting our Victorians resources page.

Flora Sandes: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Flora Sandes.

  • Flora Sandes was the only British woman to officially fight as soldier during World War I. She was a Sergeant Major in the Serbian Army and a Captain after the war.
  • Flora was born in 1876 in Yorkshire. She often wished she had been born a boy and as a child she learned to drive, shoot and ride a horse.

  • While working as a secretary, she spent her spare time training with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry Corps, a women only military unit. She learned to march, give first aid, and signal.
  • She lived in London for a while although she had a passion for travel. By age 18 she had been to Egypt, Canada and the United States where she supposedly shot a man in self defence.
  • She travelled to Serbia a week after World War I broke out. She worked in military hospitals, became fluent in the local language and joined the Serbian Red Cross.

Flora Sandes

  • Flora Sandes joined the Serbian Army and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant within a year.
  • In November, 1916 she was seriously injured by a grenade and spent 2 months recovering in hospital.
  • She was awarded Serbia’s highest military award, the Order of the Star of Karadorde.
  • While on sick leave in England, she raised money to help the Serbian army.
  • After the war, Flora Sandes lived in Paris and Belgrade and married an officer in the Serbian army.
  • She worked at Paris’ famous Folies Bergere nightclub and as the first taxi driver in Belgrade.
  • When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941 (World War 2), Sandes was too old at 65 to join the Yugoslav army. The Germans arrested her but released her soon afterwards.
  • Flora Sandes returned to England after the war and died in Suffolk in 1956. She wrote two autobiographies describing her exciting experiences in the army and elsewhere.

Dorothy Lawrence: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Dorothy Lawrence.

  • Dorothy Lawrence was an English woman who wanted to be a journalist. When World War I broke out in 1914, she disguised herself as a man to report from the front lines.

  • She was born in October, 1896 in north London although she did not know for sure who her parents were. When she was a baby, she was adopted by a church member.
  • When war broke out, Lawrence went to Paris in an attempt to report on World War 1 as a freelance correspondent. She was told that the job was too dangerous for a woman to do.

Dorothy Lawrence

  • She made friends with two British soldiers in France, who helped her disguise herself as a man. She had her hair cut short, darkened her pale skin and learned how to walk differently.
  • Her forged identity papers said she was Private Denis Smith.
  • She lasted almost 2 weeks in the British trenches, spending time with a division placing land mines. She slept in a nearby derelict cottage and lived on food smuggled to her.
  • Dorothy Lawrence gave herself up after 10 days. At first she was declared a prisoner of war and was also ordered not to write about her experience.

Dorothy Lawrence as a soldier

  • After the war ended, Lawrence wrote a book about her experience which received good reviews. However, because of censoring by the War Office it was not the big seller she hoped it would be.
  • By the early 1920s she had no money and was living in a London mental hospital. She spent the last 40 years of her life in various different hospitals and asylums.
  • Dorothy Lawrence died in 1964 and was buried in New Southgate cemetery, London. The cemetery contains the graves of over 200 soldiers and German prisoners from World War I.
  • She is slowly being recognized for her achievement. The 100th anniversary of World War I in 2014 saw a book about her life, as well as a small exhibition in London’s Imperial War Museum.

Frida Kahlo: Facts and Information

Here are some interesting facts about Frida Kahlo.

  • Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter. She is best known for her work showing women and experiences relating to women, and for her self portraits, often painted in naïve or primitive style.

  • She was born in July, 1907 in Mexico City. At an early age she developed polio which meant that one of her legs was slightly longer than the other.
  • The Mexican Revolution began on July 7th, 1910. Frida Kahlo later stated that her birth date was the same day, so that she could claim to be born on the same day as modern Mexico.
  • In 1925, a tram collided with the bus she was on. Because of the accident, she had over 30 operations during her life and was never able to have children.
  • In 1939, some of her paintings were exhibited in Paris. She was the first 20th century Mexican artist to have one of her paintings bought by the Louvre Museum.

Frida Kahlo

  • In 1929, she married the famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera, divorced him in 1939 and married him again in 1940. Their differences in size – Diego was over 6 ft tall and Frida was 5′ 3″ –   meant that they were sometimes called the Dove and the Elephant.
  • Kahlo’s work was strongly influenced by Mexican culture. Her paintings often had monkeys in them, a widely used Mexican motif, which she used to symbolize protection and tenderness.
  • She was also influenced by primitive art, Surrealism and Christian and Jewish imagery. Almost half of her 143 paintings are self-portraits.
  • Frida Kahlo died in 1954, although the cause of death was never fully confirmed. Her ashes are kept in an urn dating from pre-Columbian times in her former home.
  • The house where she grew up has been a museum and popular tourist attraction since 1958. The Russian leader, Trotsky, stayed in the house in 1937 when he first visited Mexico.

Nicholas Winton: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Nicholas Winton.

  • Nicholas Winton is a British humanitarian who saved many Jewish children from the Holocaust.
  • Just before World War II started, he devised a plan to rescue 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia.

  • Winton was born in London, in 1909. He was the son of Jewish German parents, and the family changed their name from Wertheim to fit in.
  • Winton was working as a stockbroker in London when his friend rang him from Czechoslovakia asking for his help.
  • When he returned to England from Czechoslovakia, he often worked late at night on his plan. He formed a committee, which consisted of himself, his mother, some volunteers and a secretary.
  • He contacted the governments of several countries to ask them if they would take the children. Only the UK and Sweden said that they would help.
  • The first group of children left Czechoslovakia on March 14, 1939. They flew to the UK, although 7 other groups travelled by train and boat across Europe and the English Channel.
  • Nicholas Winton didn’t tell anyone outside of the committee what he had done, until after the war.
  • His wife found a scrapbook with all the details, and 1988 he talked about his achievement on television.
  • Today, the rescued children call themselves ‘Winton’s Children’ and they often visit his house to thank him.
  • Further groups of children were scheduled to leave on September 1st, 1939 but they were stopped by the German invasion of Poland.
  • Winton celebrated his 100th birthday by flying in a small plane piloted by the daughter of one of the rescued boys.
  • In September, 2009, a special Winton train travelled from Prague to London.
  • Nicholas Winton has been awarded the OBE and the Pride of Britain Award. There is a Czech school named after him, as well as a small planet.

King Louis XIV: Facts About the Sun King

Here are some facts about King Louis XIV.

  • King Louis XIV was the King of France from 1643 until 1715. He reigned for 72 years, making him the longest ruling monarch of any major European country.
  • He was born in France in 1638 and became King at the age of 5, following the death of his father.

  • It was considered a privilege for the wealthy to watch the young Louis eat, bathe and sleep.
  • In 1661, King Louis XIV astonished his court by deciding to rule without a minister to advise him.
  • He chose the sun to symbolize his power and strength, and became known as the Sun King.

Louis XIV

  • Louis XIV built the spectacular palace at Versailles, one of the largest in the world. It has over 700 rooms, including the famous 73 metre long Hall of Mirrors.
  • He fought wars with several other European countries, but managed to gain more land for France.
  • The American state of Louisiana is named after him.
  • Louis appreciated the arts, literature, theatre and music and was friends with many famous artists and writers. He also enjoyed hunting every day in the grounds at Versailles.
  • King Louis XIV is said to have had his bed linen changed several times a day. He also bathed regularly in his own Turkish bath and often disinfected his skin.
  • Only his hairdresser was allowed to see him without a wig. Wearing one of his 1,000 wigs made him look much taller than his 162 cm.
  • Louis commissioned over 300 portraits of himself, many of which survive today. He also ordered 20 statues of himself to stand in Paris and other French towns and cities.
  • King Louis XIV died of gangrene in 1715, just before his 77th birthday, and was succeeded by his 5 year old grandson. He was buried in Saint Denis basilica in northern Paris, alongside other French Royalty.