At first he occupied himself with ordinary routine work, but being far from satisfied with the scope which this afforded, he seized eagerly upon the opportunity for novel research, offered by Kirchhoff's discoveries in spectrum analysis.
He wrote numerous papers on photometry and spectrum analysis in Poggendorff's Annalen and Berichte der k.
As is shown by his verses and sometimes by his prose, his mind was highly imaginative; the poet Coleridge declared that if he "had not been the first chemist, he would have been the first poet 1 Davy's will directed that this service, after Lady Davy's death, should pass to his brother, Dr John Davy, on whose decease, if he had no heirs who could make use of it, it was to be melted and sold, the proceeds going to the Royal Society" to found a medal to be given annually for the most important discovery in chemistry anywhere made in Europe or Anglo-America."The silver produced £736, and the interest on that sum is expended on the Davy medal, which was awarded for the first time in 1877, to Bunsen and Kirchhoff for their discovery of spectrum analysis.
He can scarcely be called its inventor, for not only had many investigators already used the prism as an instrument of chemical inquiry, but considerable progress had been made towards the explanation of the principles upon which spectrum analysis rests.
When, in the third quarter of the igth century, spectrum analysis was applied to the light coming to us from the heavenly bodies, a new era in astronomical science was opened up of such importance that the body of knowledge revealed by this method has sometimes been termed the "new astronomy."