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Caricature of a chemical lecture, London, England, 1802

Entitled ‘Scientific Researches or an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air’, this caricature makes fun of scientific lectures at the Royal Institution, London and features a number of scientists of the day. At this time natural philosophers and scientists were studying the effects on health of the air we breathe. Sir John Coxe Hippisley (1745/6-1825), a politician, is being experimented upon with laughing gas (nitrous oxide) to produce wind. The man conducting the experiment is Thomas Young (1773-1829), a physician and natural philosopher who lectured at the Royal Institution in 1802. He is assisted by Humphry Davy (1778-1829), a British chemist. In the doorway stands Sir Benjamin Thompson, later Count von Romford (1753-1814), the founder of the Royal Institution. The work was created by James Gillray (1757-1815), a British artist and caricaturist, and published by Hannah Humphrey (c. 1745-1818).

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Related Themes and Topics



Glossary: nitrous oxide

Nitrogen oxide. A colourless, odourless gas that is used as an anaesthetic and analgesic. High concentrations cause a narcotic effect and may replace oxygen, causing death by asphyxia. It is also used as a food aerosol in the preparation of whipping cream.

Glossary: print

Pictorial works produced by transferring images by means of a matrix such as a plate, block, or screen, using any of various printing processes. When emphasizing the individual printed image, use "impressions." Avoid the controversial expression "original prints," except in reference to discussions of the expression's use. If prints are neither "reproductive prints" nor "popular prints," use just "prints."

Glossary: caricature

A representation that exaggerates certain features or characteristics to humorous effect.