Naval History Lagniappe

December 28, 2020 |

Stefan Jovanovich  writes: 

Because it was foul stuff to work with compared to pine tar and Davy was promoting the uses of coal over which Britain had the same near monopoly that North Carolina had over turpentine and pine tar.  Britain became coal mad as they discovered that British midlands anthracite had superior qualities for ship's boilers over everyone else's stuff.  (When Admiral Dewey's squadron won the Battle of Manila Bay, they were fueled by British colliers from Hong Kong.). 

Big AI  writes: 

Epilogue to the story:

The financial catastrophe which had overtaken the Earl in no way  diminished his enthusiasm for scientific investigation. While he and his creditors were in prolonged negotiation for the disposal of Culross, he produced his largest and most important publication, A Treatise Showing the Intimate Connection that Subsists between Agriculture and Chemistry. But once again, he was in advance of his time. What was dismissed as eccentricity in the Earl of Dundonald was to be hailed as the genius of discovery in Sir Humphrey Davy. Indeed,  the most bitter irony of all was still far in the future, when the  Earl was an old and dying man, struggling to support his ailing mistress and her child in Parisian squalor, to which he had been  driven by the most remorseless of his creditors. From the miseries of  this exile, where drink had become his last consolation, the old man  heard that the Lordships of the Admiralty had conceived an interesting  new idea. In 1822, they had asked a committee of the Royal Society,  under the chairmanship of Sir Humphrey Davy, to investigate the  possibility that coal tar might be an effective and cheap preservative  for ships' bottoms. The committee reported favorably and the  Lordships congratulated themselves on their acumen. Not only was their> suggestion vindicated but the cantankerous Scottish earl who had taken  out a patent in the 1780s had neither heart nor money to renew it in  1806. The Admiralty, by biding its time, got the process for nothing.


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