Chemistry KS3/4: Who was Humphry Davy?

Professor Brian Cox introduces Humphry Davy, who was passionate both about chemistry and communicating his enthusiasm for science to the public.

He visits the Royal Institution to recreate one of Davy's spectacular public experiments, making nitrogen triiodide from iodine (an element that Davy discovered) and concentrated ammonia, with explosive results.

Cox explains the, at that time, new theory of chemical elements and that Davy believed that understanding science would allow man to control the world around him, beginning an uneasy tension between science and religion.

This short film is from the BBC series, Science Britannica.

Teacher Notes

This short film could be used as a basis to discuss chemical reactions and the formation of compounds.

This could also help encourage students in discussing the work of famous scientists and the tension between science and religion.

Nitrogen triiodide can potentially be prepared in school by experienced science teachers who have sought advice from CLEAPSS and performed an appropriate risk assessment.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be relevant for teaching chemistry at KS3 and KS4/GCSE and National 4/5 and Higher in Scotland.

This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA.

More from Science Britannica:

Who was Henry Cavendish?
William Perkin and making scientific discoveries by chance
How CERN helps us understand the Big Bang
Sir Isaac Newton and the scientific method
John Tyndall and blue skies research
Targeted research
Global warming resistant GM crops
John Hunter and public engagement in science