This essay examines the career of Humphry Davy against a background of the development of disciplinary structures in science and the exploration of individual subjectivity in the Romantic period. I show how Davy constructed a charismatic persona for himself as a scientific lecturer and researcher with his deployment of spectacular and powerful chemical instrumentation. Doing so, he both exploited and consolidated new institutional and disciplinary formations. I also show how Davy’s career called for continuous self-fashioning in a changing social milieu, how demands for more thoroughgoing institutional reform sidelined him, and how he was subjected to ridicule in a context of unstable gender-relations. Davy’s case suggests that the establishment of disciplinary institutions had a complex relationship to formations of personal identity, and that the career of a charismatic individual in such institutions could be a precarious one.


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pp. 15-28
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