Humphry Davy was born on the 17th December 1778 in Penzance, the son of a woodcarver .
His interest in scientific things was fostered by his acquaintance with Robert Duncan, a Penzance saddler who made electrical and mechanical models.
He went to school first in Penzance, then to Truro Grammar School when he was 15.
His father, Robert Davy, died, in 1794 leaving a widow and five children without much money.
At 16 he became apprenticed to Dr John Borlase, a Penzance surgeon.
Here his work involved mixing potions in the laboratory.
He set about systematically to prepare himself for a career in medicine by reading widely. Beginning with metaphysics and ethics and passing on to mathematics, then chemistry at the end of 1797, and within a few months of reading Nicholsons and Lavoisiers treatises on chemistry had produced a new theory of light and heat.
Then a chance meeting with a Bristol scientist, Dr Beddoes, led to his being offered a job as assistant in the newly opened Pneumatic Institution in Bristol in 1798.
Within four years he had established himself as a scientist through his experiments with gasses.