Academic Article


  • This essay examines the career of Humphry Davy against a background of the development of disciplinary structures in science and the exploration of individual subjectivity in the Romantic period. I show how Davy constructed a charismatic persona for himself as a scientific lecturer and researcher with his deployment of spectacular and powerful chemical instrumentation. Doing so, he both exploited and consolidated new institutional and disciplinary formations. I also show how Davy’s career called for continuous self-fashioning in a changing social milieu, how demands for more thoroughgoing institutional reform sidelined him, and how he was subjected to ridicule in a context of unstable gender-relations. Davy’s case suggests that the establishment of disciplinary institutions had a complex relationship to formations of personal identity, and that the career of a charismatic individual in such institutions could be a precarious one.
  • Authors


    Publication Date

  • 2011
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In


  • 1800-1899
  • Davy, Sir Humphry(1778-1829)
  • English literature
  • chemistry
  • prose
  • scientific experimentation
  • the self
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 15
  • End Page

  • +
  • Volume

  • 45
  • Issue

  • 1