SKU: A01802 Category:


Description: In this two-page, enthusiastic, but partial, letter (May 26, 1821), Davy asks Ampère for some “proof of the existence of electrical currents in the magnet” and is modestly willing to share “two memoirs” of his own “novel” findings. The missing last page of this letter is in the Smithsonian Libraries. The first pages state in full:

“Dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for the last very flattering letter which I had the honor of receiving from you.

Your ingenious results & the elaborate conclusions deduced from them have excited great attention amongst our philosophers

I wish you may be able to furnish some direct proof of the existence of Electrical currents in the magnet. As yet all our attempts to produce electrical by magnetic phenomena have failed.

I have worked a good deal on this subject and I shall soon have the pleasure of sending you two memoirs containing the few facts I have been able to establish.  They are at least of a novel kind though I fear of little importance to theory.

I shall seize the first favorable opportunity that offers of placing your name amongst the candidates for election on the foreign list, but in general it is a point of delicacy for the president rather to obey….”

The final page, which is in the Humphry Davy Papers at the Smithsonian libraries, states in full: “the impulse given by the most distinguished scientific members of the Royal Society to the body in favor of distinguished foreigners, than to attempt to create it, in [sic] your celebrity is so high that you require no personal favor…from private friendship. Lady Davy who I am sorry to say is carried by bad health to a milder climate will deliver this letter…. I hope she will soon recover and return and save me from a journey to France this season which under any other circumstances except those depending upon the illness of a beloved object would be agreeable to me….” (Humphry Davy Papers, Smithsonian Libraries)

Written on 9” x 7 ½” ivory paper. Item #A01802

Sir Humphry Davy (1820-27) was a British chemist, a poet, and inventor of the miner’s safety lamp… the Davy lamp. He became one of the greatest exponents of scientific methods in the early 19th century. His study of electricity/electrolysis led to the isolation of many minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, and barium from their compounds. He was the President of the Royal Society from 1820-27. His nomination took place at a time the Society was a club for gentlemen interested in natural philosophy and history over specialized science.

André-Marie Ampère (1715-1836), a French physicist and mathematician, was one of the first founders of classic electromagnetism which he called electrodynamics. The Standard Unit of electrical measurement is named after Ampère (AMP). The word “cinematique” is the English version of Ampère’s coinage linematic (from the Gk kinema).

Condition:  Mailing fold lines and wrinkling, the ragged left margin (chips/tears do not touch text) has been reinforced with archival tissue/tape. The writing is visible, clear and legible. Included is a 1964 bill of sale for this partial letter from bookseller/manuscript dealer Maury Bromsen.