Davies Gilbert


Davies Gilbert : biography

March 6, 1767 – December 24, 1839

Davies Giddy was born, the only child of Edward Giddy, curate of St Erth church, and Catherine Davies, daughter of Henry Davies of Tredrea. Davies Giddy would later adopt Gilbert as his surname, the maiden name of his wife.

He was educated at Penzance Grammar School and by his father, and by Rev Malachy Hitchens,West Briton, Jan 3 1840 "Death of Davies Gilbert Esq." – quotation:"His preliminary education was conducted at home; and at a very early age he contracted an intimacy, which continued until death, with the Rev. Malachy Hitchens, vicar of St. Hilary, a gentleman of high and well-deserved celebrity as a mathematician and astronomer, and as editor of the Nautical Almanack." the mathematical astronomer. He went up to Pembroke College, Oxford, from whence he graduated with a M.A. on 29 June 1789.

Davies was High Sheriff of Cornwall from 1792 to 1793. He served in the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Helston in Cornwall from 1804 to 1806 and for Bodmin from 1806 to 1832.

Giddy was an intimate friend of physician Thomas Beddoes, had attended Beddoes’ lectures in Oxford and had been a confidant of Beddoes in his plans for the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol. He noticed and encouraged Humphry Davy and convinced Beddoes that Davy was the man to work in the laboratory at the Institution.

The Dictionary of National Biography article says of him:

"Gilbert’s importance to the development of science in the early nineteenth century lay in his faith that science provided the best means to tackle practical problems and in his facility as a parliamentary promoter of scientific ventures."

His mathematical skills were sought by such early engineering pioneers as Jonathan Hornblower, Richard Trevithick and Thomas Telford. He also had a great interest for the history and culture of Cornwall. For instance, he removed a Celtic cross from near Truro, on the Redruth Road (where it had found new use as a gatepost), and took it to a churchyard in his new home of Eastbourne. When asked why he carried off a Cornish Cross and re-erected it in Eastbourne by the Rev. Canon Hockin, of Phillack, Mr. Davies replied, It was in order to show the poor, ignorant folk that there was something bigger in the world than a flint!.

He assembled and published A Parochial History of Cornwall and collected and published a number of Cornish Carols.A Parochial History of Cornwall : This book provides the first written evidence of the use of Flag of Saint Piran 25px. It is available via Google Books

He edited for publication a Cornish Language poem about the Passion: Passyon agan Arluth, as Mount Calvary (1826).

He was elected to the Society of Antiquaries in 1820. Gilbert was the President of the Royal Geological Society of Cornwall from its foundation in 1814 until his death.