In 1798, at the age of 19, a self-taught British chemist named Humphry Davy got a job testing newly discovered gases to see if any of them could cure diseases. Fearlessly testing gases on himself, he found that one — nitrous oxide — made people laugh. This discovery brought Davy to the attention of the world, made "laughing gas” a party favorite — and led to a new job at the Royal Institution in London. There, Davy dazzled audiences with his popular lectures and turned the newly discovered battery into a powerful tool in the search for new elements. But with his attention diverted by electricity, elements and lecturing, Davy failed to follow up on one of his own observations, thereby condemning thousands around the world to decades of needless surgical pain.