BARS-Wordsworth Grasmere Digital Event: Romanticism and Science: The Case of Sir Humphry Davy

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Thu, 25 Jan 2024 19:30 – 21:00 GMT

Tickets available here.

Join Sharon Ruston, Frank James, and Sara Cole on Thursday 25 January 2024 for a fascinating roundtable on Romanticism and Science, focusing mainly on Humphry Davy.

This is the first of a new collaborative digital event series between Wordsworth Grasmere and BARS. If you are a BARS Member, you will have received an email with a code allowing free access to this event.

Sir Humphry Davy (1778-29) was the foremost British chemist of the nineteenth century, most famous for the miners’ safety lamp that he invented which became known as the ‘Davy lamp’, as well as isolating the chemical elements sodium and potassium. Davy also wrote poetry throughout his life and was a friend of many of the Romantic poets, including S. T. Coleridge and William Wordsworth. In this webinar, we will explore the findings of the Davy Notebooks Project ( Over the past few years, nearly 3500 volunteers from around the world have transcribed 83 of Davy’s notebooks. Prof Sharon Ruston will discuss some of the poetry that is found in Davy’s notebooks; Prof Frank James will explore ‘Humphry Davy in the West Indies: The Chemical ‘Explanation’ of Race’; and Sara Cole will look at women, science and satire in the period.

The findings of the Davy Notebooks project will be revealed in an exhibition at Wordsworth Grasmere from 16 January to 23 March 2024. The exhibition will showcase several original Davy manuscripts and focus on his lectures, geology, chemistry, links with the slave trade, his poetry and the Davy lamp.

This event is in collaboration with the British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS).

About the speakers

Professor Sharon Ruston is Chair in Romanticism at the English Literature and Creative Writing department at Lancaster University. She has published The Science of Life and Death in Frankenstein (2021), Creating Romanticism (2013), Romanticism: An Introduction (2010), and Shelley and Vitality (2005). She co-edited The Collected Letters of Sir Humphry Davy for Oxford University Press (2020) and currently leads the AHRC-funded project to transcribe all of the Davy’s notebooks.

Frank James is Professor of the History of Science, University College London. After working on Michael Faraday for twenty-five years, in 2012 he started investigating Humphry Davy serving as an Advisory Editor on the four-volume edition of Davy’s letters and as a Co-I on the Davy Notebook Project. He is currently writing a biographical study of Davy, focussing on his practical work.

Sara Cole is a postgraduate researcher in English Literature at Lancaster University. Her PhD research focuses on the relationship between science and satire in the Romantic period, particularly in the work of Anna Barbauld, Elizabeth Inchbald, Thomas Love Peacock and Lord Byron. Her academic interests include literature and science, the literary and visual satire of the Romantic period and the history of science, technology and medicine.

This webinar is hosted by Jeff Cowton, Principal Curator & Head of Learning at Wordsworth Grasmere.

How to book and attend

Please read our guide to booking and attending online events before you purchase a ticket.

Five free tickets are available for those experiencing financial hardship that would otherwise not be able to attend. This is on a first come first served basis with no questions asked about your situation. Please email Victoria at

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