So in December there are many birthdays of people who influenced our lives and those of our ancestors.
Let’s start on the 17th December 1778. Grace Davy nee Millet the wife of Robert Davy a wood turner from Cornwall goes into labour. She eventually gives birth to her first child, a boy she names Humphrey. Humphrey Davy became an apprentice to an apothecary and developed a keen interest in chemistry. By 1801 Davy was working at the Royal Society in London. Via his experiments and research he discovered many chemical elements including sodium, barium, magnesium, potassium and strontium. Davy also discovered that diamonds are just carbon and not something more mystical. One of Davy’s most famous discoveries was the miner’s lamp around 1815. This stopped the methane from the flame from setting fire to the gases in the pits and leading to explosions. Just think how many lives this saved. As the descendent of miner’s then there is a chance I wouldn’t be here without Sir Humphrey Davy.
In Preston, Lancashire on the 23rd December 1732 Richard Arkwright was born. He started out as a barber and wig maker. Arkwright was an inventor though and began working on a machine to spin cotton. This would greatly speed up the process and mean more cotton could be produced. Arkwright initially powered his machine using horse power at his works in Nottingham but soon went into partnership with wealthy Derbyshire mill owners and build Cromford mill which was powered by water from the river Derwent. The mill was so successful Arkwright was able to build his workers homes in the village of Cromford. He also built a second mill in nearby Matlock Bath (which is now a shopping centre and heritage centre as is Cromford Mill). Arkwright also had mills in Wirkworth, Chorley and New Lanark. Arkwright was hit by riots as the mills didn’t need as many workers to run them as he developed his water power and steam power and the mill in Scotland was destroyed by the rioters. He did employee hundreds of people and developed fabric manufacture which meant our ancestors could potentially get cheaper clothes for them and their families all thanks to Sir Richard Arkwright.
It’s Christmas day 1642 and in Lincolnshire Isaac Newton was born. Now he is most famous for discovering gravity, but he was also worked in the fields of maths, mechanics and optics. He realised that light was made up of different colours and that if you put light through a glass prism it splits into the colours of the spectrum. He is most famous for sitting under an apple tree and seeing an apple falling and this lead him to formulate that there was an invisible force acting upon us, i.e., gravity. So thanks to Sir Isaac Newton we know why we don’t fly into space.
On Boxing Day 1792 Charles Babbage entered the world in London. Now Charles Babbage was a genius of his time. He was a mechanical engineer and mathematician who became professor of mathematics at Cambridge University. He also helped found the Royal Astronomical Society. He is probably best known for his work on the Difference Engine. This was a calculating machine he began working on in 1822. He never completed it but it has since been built by the science museum and it would have worked. Through his work Charles Babbage is known as the father of computing and his work in the early Victorian era lead to you being able to use anything computing based.
Now onto one of my favourite inventors who was born on the 27th December 1773 near Scarborough in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He was the son of a baronet and developed an interest in aviation and engineering. He developed the self-righting boat, seat belts and the glider. He was Sir George Cayley. In 1804 he flew his first model glider that looked like the layout of a plane. He developed his design and by 1853 his glider was flown by a member of his staff in front of Waydale Hall his country seat. Some accounts say the employee, possibly his coachman resigned afterwards. It was the early 1900’s before true flights began, but every time you get on a plane to go on holiday think of Sir George Cayley and his terrified coachman.
So it could be said all these inventors changed the lives of our ancestors as well as ours.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!