Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The refractory spirits

leave a comment »

I have spoken of the scientific attainments necessary for the chemical philosopher; I will say a few words of the intellectual qualities necessary for discovery, or for the advancement of the science. Amongst them patience, industry, and neatness in manipulation, and accuracy and minuteness in observing and registering the phenomena which occur are essential. A steady hand and a quick eye are most useful auxiliaries; but there have been very few great chemists who have preserved these advantages through life; for the business of the laboratory is often a service of danger, and the elements, like the refractory spirits of romance, though the obedient slave of the magician, yet sometimes escape the influence of his talisman and endanger his person. Both the hands and eyes of others however may be sometimes advantageously made use of. By often repeating a process or an observation, the errors connected with hasty operations or imperfect views are annihilated; and, provided the assistant has no preconceived notions of his own, and is ignorant of the object of his employer in making the experiment, his simple and bare detail of facts will often be the best foundation for an opinion.

Sir Humphry Davy, Consolations in Travel

Written by nevalalee

December 16, 2017 at 7:30 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: