© Science Museum/Science and Society Picture Library
Eighteenth-century miners worked by the light of naked flames. This put them at risk from explosions caused by the ignition of pockets of firedamp, a gas composed mainly of methane. A well-publicised explosion at Felling Colliery in 1812, which killed 92 men and boys, led to calls for a safer form of mine lighting. Sir Humphry Davy, renowned scientist and lecturer, devised a form of lantern in which the flame is enclosed in a layer of wire gauze, preventing the ignition of firedamp. Successful tests in Hebburn Colliery in 1816 of the two lamps on display led to the widespread adoption of the Davy lamp in deep mines.