WLM ID: aknr | Catalog Record
In 1800 the British chemist, Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) published his meticulous research on nitrous oxide (N2O), also known as laughing gas. Davy's experiments had included inhaling the gas and observing his own reactions. He noted that it eased the pain of his toothache, and suggested that it might be used to relieve surgical pain. Although his book was praised, the idea of inhalation anesthesia was not immediately embraced. Another 44 years passed before the American dentist Horace Wells tested nitrous oxide's capacity to diminish pain by having one of his own teeth extracted while under the effects of the gas.
Davy himself did not continue this line of research. He is better known today for adding two elements to the periodic table, chlorine and iodine, and for inventing a safety lamp for miners. In 1820, he became President of England's premier scientific organization, The Royal Society. In 1869 the Davy Medal was established under the will of his brother, Dr. John Davy, F.R.S. Since 1877, the Davy Medal and a monetary prize have been given annually by The Royal Society "for an outstandingly important discovery in any branch of chemistry." In 1926, this example of the medal was awarded to Sir James Walker (1863-1935) for his work on the theory of ionization.