Safety Underground: Mining and the Miners' Lamp – Professor Frank James

an instant bacon spirit to behold Davey’s Magic Lantern the – Davian cetera every philosopher must view it as a mark of subjection set by science and the strongest holds of nature thus Faraday at a lecture de city philosophical society just all Fleet Street in 1817 I’ve always been fascinated by that passage and I want to try and unpack that a bit in the course of this talk but I just want to remind you that this year marks the bicentenary of the invention by Humphrey Davy and George Stephenson of the independent what has to say of a – safety laughs and that’s what I’ll be talking about today Britain as it’s often been said is an island of coal surrounded by water and so the two aspects of safety that I’ll be talking about this week and next week safety in mines and safety at sea the quotation a Faraday citation of bacon comes from the late 16th century where Francis Bacon and who does have a connection of Gresham Thomas Gresham by the way since his half-brother married Gresham’s daughter so they also related together that knowledge itself is power the great slogan of the application of science in this country which really only started being valid in the nineteenth century having the entire industrialization of Britain in the 18th century could have easi occurred about either knowing the inverse square law of gravitation or that light was composed of seven colors allegedly the one area where science did play some kind of role was in building the Empire and here Joseph Banks presented well started London from 1778 until his death in 1820 was a key figure in developing ideas about how you used science to exploit sustain and expand the Empire he for example had the bright idea of appointing William Bligh to command HMS Bounty – for the economic botanical idea of taking breadfruit from the East Indies to the West Indies and various other things that banks did including in 1799 six years into the final war against France founding the Royal Institution of Great Britain in omen Wall Street this was founded on the banks is housed in south a square on the south of March 1799 with the explicit purpose of applying science for the common purposes of life and it very quickly bought this building in our mile street where the RI has remained continuously ever since though I have to say the columns weren’t added until the 1830s or fairly tedious 18th century frontage when it was purchased his original eye the original idea behind the our eye was to provide scientific advice the state and its agencies and to provide scientific popular lectures and here’s a popular scientific lecture going on in 1801 because they had the great fortune to employ a very young 22 year old Humphrey Davy as professor of chemistry our position he held until 1812 when he married an extremely wealthy widow with 4,000 pounds a year and a capital 60,000 and he could tire from being professor of chemistry at the age of 35 which was a good idea so here you have Davy when he’s working in Bristol at the medical pneumatic institution had discovered of physiological properties of nitrous oxide laughing gas where which he said had all the benefits of alcohol without the hangover the day after and he got all his makes like people like the southern Coleridge and Wordsworth in Bristol to try out this new narcotic that he discovered so this is Davy gasps back here Thomas garnet the the first professor of chemistry at the world’s to ssin administering it to the treasurer Sir John hitters they were slightly unfortunate consequences behind which I am told do happen but I’ve never personally experienced it but Davy also from his experience at the medical

pneumatic institution in Bristol learnt had learnt about the value of a search and one of the things he did one of the key things he did very early on I have moved to the rel institution was to develop the Royal Institution into a research institution something which had never been intended by the founders of the a lie so in this laboratory and this is an architect’s drawing of the base with the Box in the eye so it’s actually quite quite neat and tidy which is not my normal experience of chemical dibala’s I have to say Davy in say 1807 1808 discovered sodium and potassium and these are the but this portrait of Davy from about 1812 shows one of the batteries that he used as callistonian potassium and what some notebooks in which he recorded those discoveries and this we’ve still got all that in our possession at the Royal Institution his marriage was was this all while with Jane Austen sort of marriage he got the money her money and she got his touch because three days before they got married David was knighted by the Prince Regent in the first batch of night in the in the first batch of knighthoods to be created in the Regency and so she became Lady Davy and the marriage was not especially happy one has to say they’re happy when they were apart than when they were together so that’s just part Dave for a bit and look at the context in which he would come to achieve perhaps his most famous discovery which he should still be known who she should be know more about them it’s counted the case I’m afraid to say this is the North East coal field running from Sunderland in Canada in the south all the way up to the north of Newcastle in Northumberland the Northeast produced throughout the 18th and in 19th century significant amounts of coal for Britain so in the beginning of the 18th century more nearly half a war coal production in Britain came from North East by 1815 is approaching a quarter so it still a very significant amount of coal coming from the Northeast and even as even as late as the mid 19th century with huge expansions of coal production throughout the country is still producing you know faced off it was still producing about a fifth of the country’s core requirements this came at a price and the price was explosions of firedamp which we now call methane ch4 underground which you can see in the so first decade and a half of the 19th century was increasing exponentially and not only was a significant number of people being killed in coal mines it also reduced production because we’ve got a tall man where’s been exposure it’s gonna be some time before you can get it going so it’s both one of those things we’ve spoken the interest for the workers and the owners to do something about improving safety and this came to a head in 1812 when felling Polar II blew up killing 95 so 92 men and boys and women looks at the figures there were four boys aged under 10 killed and one aged four they really started them young in the early part of the 19th century now felling collie happened to be in the parish of Jammu he worth whose wrecked at that point was John Hudson perhaps best known today as an antiquarian but fairly standard histories of Northumberland and he was absolutely appalled especially as he buried 91 of the victims in his church and he were so he working with Robert grade and in the next parish of month we’re worth decided to do something about the number of Mines growing up killing huge numbers expensive exponentially increasing numbers of people gray data achieved

fame as Bishop of Bristol and infamy for having his palace burnt down during the reform Watts of 1831 so we’ve actually lost Gray’s papers which are just not very helpful when you’re working on history of the safety that they formed the committee chaired by wealth Milbank local Whig MP who would become for these four year Lord Byron’s father-in-law and they wrote their first report in 1814 which they which they said quite clearly that what the mines needed was scientific advice it is to scientific men only that we must look up for assistance in providing a cheap and effective remedy to explosions in mines both gray and Hodgson try to contact Humphrey Davy at the Royal Institution Davy because of his knighthood because of his fame at discovering kem appearance as well as some experience with practical work for example trying to purify a Newgate the atmosphere Prison did was was a pretty obvious person to go and talk to about these issues but at that point he was on the continent visiting voltar Milan and so on not available he came back in the spring of 1815 but in the meantime other solutions have been sorts if example William Reid cranny local physician in the Northeast had developed his lab and I basically the basic problem we tried to be able to come by all lamps was to produce a source of light which you can only produce in those days using flame without causing an explosion but allowing light to be produced so you have to you have to have some sort of chamber that will contain the flame and not let it anywhere near the methane so this is plan E’s lamp and so you have bellows which provides the oxygen or duplicate air depending on your chemical preferences at that point into the lamp and their new light now as you can see this is requires one person to hold the lamp and one person to do the mining and so that’s on my name is point of view that is clearly inefficient and a serious waste of resources well eventually Davy came back to England and promptly went on a fishing holiday Lord Lord Melrose is a state in Scotland the number of letters where David talks about fishing is quite extraordinary one has to as I say once a great to fisherman of the early 19th century he visited gray and Hobson on his way back from Scotland in the summer and early autumn of 1815 took samples of the far damp from various mines in the area and sent them to the Royal Institution telling is the body assistant Michael Faraday to keep him there until he got back and then when he got back to London having visited some of the Great and the good northeast Bishop of Durham at the bishop Auckland and the lessels family at Wentworth Woodhouse he and Farraday started a very very intense period of a search on flame on trying to produce a safety lamp from so the middle of October through the end of December 1815 now curiously enough there are no notebooks recording their experiments and so the what evidence we’ve got for the development of this depends on analyzing the manuscript paper drafts and most good papers that day we kept on drafting about four or five drafts over it appeared about three months you can actually tell quite precisely when various innovations were developed in the in the safety level so this is the first lamp on the left this was basically an ordinary miner’s lamp which Coleman is used with very narrow thin vast chimneys here so the idea is to stop the methane getting stop heating getting there so trying to sort distribute the heat proved the metal one stopped the flame coming up here the next version this was to build this sort of interest in these shaped chimney and an intake down there now one thing that

Davey did discover as he and fairly did this experimental work and I must admit one has I do have a say that it’s very hard to tell who was doing which bit of work day we does acknowledge Faraday in his paper but one has to say that Davey’s paper has a remarkable degree of coherence to it which is so literary features normally absent from most of Davies others other papers which are difficult at times to understand whereas Davies paper on the is extremely easy to understand one thing is they did discover was that when flame was in a methane atmosphere it brightened up so instantly you had a potential detector for the presence of methane and but obviously by the time a flame is starting to increase in brightness and intensity you don’t know it’s probably a bit too late to stop an explosion and so you need to have something that closes down the that flame very very rapidly and so what Davy did was to develop a couple of bimetallic devices so here you have this biometallic strip here which when the flame has ignited by methane is ignited methane heats up and causes a valve here to close and stops the flame from getting out and creating the explosion and in the opposite way another bimetallic strip here organizing of controlling a valve down here to stop the oxygen these kiddy they’re getting into the flame in the first place and they were then variant on that on the tiny lamp is that one has is not entirely clear whether Davy was aware of Kandi’s work or not but you have notions of using bellows to put push in the oxygen and so s-shaped chimney here or a syringe again exact same principle I try to isolate the flame completely as a heat producing source from the atmosphere and keep the keep the temperature down prevent an explosion but allow the light to pass through and they we thought with these sorts of lamps he’s actually cracked the problem I mean he’s so confident was he that he’s had correct this problem that in know early November 1815 he said the paper to the Royal Society of London which was read on the 9th of November where he announced he’d sold this problems of benefit of humanity and so on all the sort of rhetoric of day we would deploy and saying and then getting this yet then publishing or beginning to pub giving you the publication process of that paper in the Society’s Philosophical Transactions so close did this paper get to being published in its original form that the plate here was made so showing this or various chimney shapes and so on this was pulled there’s only one copy of this printed plate in existence and it’s in the world Institution archives the reason why it was pulled was a devi and we’ve had his help continued work on developing a lamp and the first development was what Devi called surrounding the flame we were what he called a fire sieve and this is a heat exchanger in principle so you have large these about an inch in diameter that’s about inch and a half thin sheets of metal working as a sieve either arranged rectangular or in a circle and implemented at the boss base of a lamp like that again designed to absorb the heat spread the heat over wide metallic area and allow to produce a temperature prevent methane from exploding the next innovation was to turn this fast if here into goals piece of metal gout goals here and

here it’s not entirely clear to me what David was doing with large quantities of goals in the violence shushing the run the main use of girls at that point in the early 19th century was for making watermark paper yeah I had had a printing officer but that closed in 1804 so it’s not von Tala convinced they would haven’t have it left around although knowing that metal stuff we still find around the building possible I suppose so this worked so you just apply a chimney like that we were metal balls there and place it on top of an already existing lamps and another modification needed was minimal and so other examples here so you could just do just a candle for example a hoe a candle going into a glass container blast lamp and piece of Gauls down there piece of balls down there keeps the temperature down he’s just booted across the metal and you’ve got a light source very very cheaply and then it is pretty obvious next step was that what we’ve got to do is to enclose the flame in a cylinder walls and you’ve solved a problem and he in Davy announced sitting at F of the John Hodgson right at the end of December 1815 that is the his Davies that’s Ernest drawing we’ve got of the Gauls lamp from that letter and this is the original goals that itself in the museum at the Royal Institution when a candle or lamp is enclosed in a wild boar cylinder and introduced into an explosive mixture the flame of the wick is extinguished but a mixed gas burned steadily within the wire gauze vessel I can confine this destructive element flame like bird in a cage now you will see from who see can see from here oops that this is actually quite a well-turned piece of metal here and there’s a third person involved in developing this lab and that’s the all institutions interim a cur John Newman & Newman made made made all this and this one was actually signed signed by Newman but we don’t have we haven’t got that much information about what David Faraday were doing in their laboratory on a day-by-day basis we have no idea what Newman was doing on a day-by-day basis nevertheless new by January of 1816 Newman had made five of these lamps and Davy sent them up to Hobson in Jarrow and asking him to test the lamp down a mine and on the 9th of January 1816 Hodgson I think extremely bravely with a number of miners descended into heaven collar II again perish in his power to Joe if he worth and tested these now these are the actual lamps that went down into the mine that day two of them have survived and these two happened to be in the Stan’s Museum in London they were never returned to the Royal Institution unfortunately thereupon the lamps Davy lamps were quickly made I mean they’re they are actually quite easy things and to make and and quite cheaply and they spread rapidly throughout the Northeast coal field and beyond as far as Belgium Russia desire Russia gave davyous in between as a token of thanks for his work there was a problem however from baby’s point of view and that was George Stephenson Stevenson was a mining engineer from Killingworth colory near Newcastle killing with Kali was owned by brand Ling family who were very influential political politicians and along with the Whitley family controlled quite a large chunk of the northeast tall field at exactly the same time and I do actually mean that at the same time from October to December 1815 George Stephenson was working on his safety lamps and we know actually very little about how he developed those vamps there’s no

documentation available about how he said about doing the work but we do have lamps and these are the lamps that Davy got hold of during 1816 in order to try and rubbish them and in this he did not succeed because they also work and they work on more or less the same principle is it again the sill is exactly the same problem of containing the heat from a flame in a container but allowing light to get out so you need to distribute the heat to keep the temperature down so you begin to get so conical-shaped lamp here but over but lathe but should within a few weeks Stephenson had started building lamps with bigger holes than wild walls and and basically the basic argument that develop between Stephenson and David was how big hole was in order to prevent an explosion and then sold later types of Stephenson’s lamps and these also worked and they were deployed in the mines owned by the branding family and by the widly family and one or two other coal mines Davy could not believe that an unlettered mechanic I was polite of descriptions of Stevenson could have invented a lamp that worked as effectively as his own lab developed in the metropolitan laboratory of the Royal Institution there then follow throughout 1816 1817 this most ferocious priority dispute between Stevenson and Davy over who invented lamp flame catheterization zuv plagiarism flew around I remember a few found any evidence that either knew until quite late on what the other one other one was up to and this played in to the politics of the northeast of England who John Lambton later 1st Earl of Durham now Lambton as a young boy when he was aged six or seven to six and seven studied with Humphrey Davy at the medical pneumatic institution in Bristol as the person who read the medical research medical new mapping institution in Bristol was called Thomas Beddoes and as a sideline he also taught children of extremely wealthy aristocrats and so Lambton was extremely well disposed towards Davey and I mean they recall things like when Dave was doing his early electrical experiments in Bristol lanthum would go out onto the Downs above Clifton and capture all the Fox that Davy needed to do his electrical experiments there were no folks left on the downs my time Lambton had finished his his work he never became best in Russia which is what is successful in and in governor-general Canada which was a total disaster and he is recalled by the government a strong Whig radical Whig think Tony Benn as only somebody with so much money could be so radical I had a income reputed to be thirty thousand pounds a year give you some idea what that’s worth when the world Institution purchase is building Oh Wall Street they paid 4850 so it gives you an idea of how wealthy this man was and to this day Lambton Park is a quite incredible place to go and visit to work in the archives you drive drive closer a couple miles of estate trying to avoid pheasants and peasants before you get to the amusement room Lambton Mountain Park opposed to that in both in terms of mining but also in terms of politics was the brand where the Brandon family who have produced several generations of Conservative MPs for the Northeast and so this whole plagiarism priority controversy was given at a peak when see by this priority dispute and the language becomes quite extraordinary and I think Davey begins to start suffering or potentially suffering form a nervous breakdown gets very closest and there was breakdown so for example like writing to Lampton just a year after he’d invented his lamp I hope you will not blame me for not taking a notice of the attacks of my enemies in the north I have no desire to go out of my way to crush

natsot buzz at a distance and you know bite me or quarrel with persons who shoot arrows at the moon and in a year later writing to the north New Castle lawyer called James lush whom Davy also knew from Bristol days but had changed his lot had changed his allegiance says to know my enemies on this occasion not from any feeling of fear but because I would not connect the names of honorable men with those other persons whose conduct and respect to my exertions in their cause would I think awake public indignation that’s not he’s aiming that’s at how they not be freely miles apart I do feel a jewel and Putney Heath would have probably been in order and I can quote endless letters about 60 or 70 letters in that sort of tone and Davy gets incredibly hysterical about in fact by the autumn of 1817 he goes to goes to bath to take the waters and also try and come calm down and clearly while in bath he comes up with a solution to the problem I mean Davey’s actually really seriously stuck I mean he can’t patent the lamp because Stevenson would immediately in junked and go to trial and daily our suspect was probably not entirely 100% confident that he would win a patent dispute with Stevenson but he has to shake Stevenson off he’s insults political maneuvering northeast haven’t done it Stephenson is still there as the letter to Lush in November 1817 indicates well about five days after that letter a group of gentlemen meet in bankers house in Soho Square and they include in addition to banks willing Thomas brand who’s Davies successor as professor of chemistry at one institution Charles acheté William Hyde Wollaston who are both very very distinguished chemists and Thomas Young he’s fallen secretary of the world Society of London and they issue a statement seen here exist when one in Chronicle was potion number papers point-by-point refuting Stevenson’s claim to invented a – safety lamp and describing all the inventions all the components of the invention – Humphrey Davy so for example this paragraph here that mr. Stevenson is not the author discovery of the fact that an explosion of inflammable gas will not pass through openings and apertures of small dimensions and so on in particular point now while this letter doesn’t actually say that Devi invented the safety lamp using science the influence is absolutely fair and it’s inference that Faraday in his nature facility for the sovereign society we which I began makes absolutely explicit that it is a science that has triumphed over the coal mine Baconian science has finally produced something which is identifiable as influence influencing industrialization and that does it as Stevenson gives up at that point he Steve wasn’t cannot pursue that kind of rhetoric he doesn’t have the support of anybody in the metropolis and any limited support in the Northeast due to the Hamptons influence and he stops basically claiming invention lamp doesn’t doesn’t concede today we obvious in the case you’ve got that Stevens and his son in later years defended his father’s party but it’s not a major issue for them and he goes off and invents the railway system does Davy however ensures that at every possible opportunity he is seen as the inventor of the lamp and this takes many forms but just to talk a bit about the iconography so here you have the painting commissioned by Lady Davy of Humphrey as president of will started London by Thomas Lawrence so here you have the president of the world Academy painting the president of the world started London and there’s a little

safety lamp here just to make the point so he said the battery that you had before 1815 which I showed the iconography moves to the two lamp and in public statues you have daily statue in Penzance where he was born sitting out there and a statue on top of Burlington house in London also we were lamp Stephenson’s iconography does something similar but not to say it doesn’t have the same impact so picture of him holding a lamp here and the students and Memorial in Newcastle also has a lamp but that doesn’t look very much like a safety lab Stevens enough to be that looks more like a Devi lab there we are no lamp as I said spread rapidly throughout Europe and I presume talking about them they looked at North America and it has two effects that the first is it does actually reduce the number of people killed in absolute terms but much more importantly from the point of view the mine owners it allows coal miners to mine much more deeply into a coal seam sort of because the further down you go to a coal seam the more methane you get so previously it’s far too dangerous to do that now we were that I think there’s a detector and a light source you can do that and coal production increases and it allows industrialization to continue during the 19th century if I was a technological determinist which I’m not I could suggest that it’s a safety that that allows industrialization to continue at the same rate in the 19th century as it had during the 18th century and this is the impact and if you do the statistics with northeast coal field which is the only one we’ve got the lowest this is for in terms of millions of tons of coal produced per miner killed it goes shooting up like that exponentially which we’ve already seen it then comes it quickly down after the lamps invented and then there’s also steady slow progression of lower fertility spell –’tis higher production except you will notice in the period of 1841 to 1845 and that’s entirely down to one explosion which is a huge interests and significance particularly in the social in social history on 28th of September 1844 95 men and boys by that time there was no there were no under 10 year olds that had been banned by an act of Parliament in the 1830s the this colony has well colouring-in Katie Durham exploded causing a huge cottage as with fed in calorie some 30 years or so before now Davy was always quite keen on the rhetoric of state involvement and so was say oh so if we put occasions that SAS is a great service the state which he Illustrated with varying degrees of success not in coal industry but also elsewhere but actually when one looks at the safety lamp there is very little state influences all done by private companies or private individuals very little state regulation or control until you get the great reform Parliament of the 1830s who and the Reform Parliament is simply not there to a form itself to change parliamentary practices and representation but actually there to reform all kinds of organizations so and so coal mining because quite high on the list lighthouses shall talk about next week was also quite high or very high on the list for reform and in the 8th mid-1830s and again in the 1840s there was significant legislation to dictate what to coal mine owners where were their private or individual in-house Awards or not what they could and can do so for example one the reason why you don’t have any yes younger boys and tend being killed Harold colouring is because that had been outlawed by the by an act of Parliament in 1835 one of the other things that they after that acted palm to dumb was to provide or make provision for using scientific advice in inquests relating to coal mine disasters this has never been implemented so far as I can make out

until the house will call a disaster in 1844 that shows where bodies were found because one one of the things about explosions is not the explosion that kills the people it’s using up all the oxygen in the mine that kills the people and they simply suffocate as a result so William crowding Roberts on the left very very radical trade union leader and lawyer whom Engels knew and Engels wrote quite a bit about the has low quality disaster in his condition of working men of condition the working men of England the following year on a sort of classic texts founding texts of Marxist ideology winning Roberts decided to implement this government’s the government’s procedures and went to Brighton to visit the Prime Minister Robert Peel on the right peel really didn’t have much choice because it was quite clear this was quite exceptional explosion I mean it even shows up in the statistics and I began this part of the talk with and he agreed without demur to employ scientific advice at the inquest and he got the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office Samuel Phillips to arrange for two of the leading scientific figures of the decade to take part in the inquest and that’s Michael Faraday here also has lots of experience from work is where the safety damp in 30 years or so before and Charles Lyell the founder of modern geology who but who was originally Edinburgh trained however Philips writing to the corner at has well with said well we’ve got these two people coming up Faraday and larval going to help you and they’re going to help you determine that the cause of the explosion was an accident thereby pre-empting what the verdict would be the the point of an inquest is it should the point of in crises that it should tell you what the course of the calls of an event was by referring it to it referring to it but permanently referring to it deliberately as an accident he was pre-empting it and telling the which is what they wanted anyway was telling the corner don’t worry about these two guys they’re gonna do what they’re told which one has to say they didn’t quite do Faraday was found in by father-in-law went down them down has well cholera in early October 1844 and Faraday was absolutely appalled at these safety procedures in place who’s one warned what occasion he was sitting in a bag and they’re so lightly candles around the place and fair they asked well what’s in the bag and they said gunpowder he was not happy as you as you can imagine nevertheless on the evidence presented the jury at the inquest I returned the verdict of accidental death which is what the home office wanted and Faraday said he agreed with that inquest gay five guineas to the off-off widows and orphans fund and left for London with Lyle he and I’ll then wrote a report highlighting the big big issues with health and safety in coal mines arguing for much better ventilation of a coal mine arguing for much better education of mine workers because that’s part of the problem one that one basically they’re all seized well hearted well the hard to tell but they came to conclusion that essentially did what the tall’s explosion was an open safety lab and the mine workers didn’t actually realize having an open safety that in the presence of methane was a seriously bad yeah and so if you’re a better educated mind workers to understand how lamps work and why you shouldn’t have an open flame in a coal mine that would improve safety the mine owners were totally appalled at this report the Lord Londonderry another big autocratic mine owners in Northeast when threatened with a mining inspected said the first inspector who came on to his into his mines will be thrown down it and kept there Finley’s solid chair that book peel in a very very difficult position peel I’ve

ever after all authorized all of us to happen but he was getting seriously criticised in the House of Lords by people like Londonderry Duke of Wellington was also less and happy about all of this and what Pele did and what Pele was always very good at doing great politicians of 19th century in as an operator welven as an argue look was to smother they found a’s and miles of port and the way he smothered it was by tabling it on the House of Commons table on the day that the Maynooth funding bill was being having its second reading well those who remember the behavior in the House of Commons during the Maastricht debate what 15 years or so ago will remember what it was like then for the main oof debate trip would quadruple I mean this was this was a Protestant Parliament funding a Roman Catholic seminary this is not what Protestant parlance is supposed to do and the route was huge so that by tabling it on this day of the second reading of that bill Pele simply killed the report stone dead and didn’t really emerge again for about twenty years afterwards despite containing the novel observation by Faraday that dust in and of itself caused an explosion and that’s why the safe clamp became really well reported for ships carrying grain and things later on the the winding house for housework ah Larry still exists our bleak place and as a memorial in the center that’s the mattify men and boys who had died so even though Davey and Faraday working in 1815 1816 had developed a lamp which in theory if properly used and in general as you saw from the graph was properly used would prevent explosions and increase coal production if they weren’t properly used if the vested interests of the mine owners won out against the interests of the mind workers you still got explosions like that thank you