Thursday, October 10, 2013
October 10 - Henry Cavendish
English experimental chemist and physicist Henry Cavendish was born on October 10, 1731, in Nice, France, to an aristocratic family. He studied for a time at Cambridge University and then completely absorbed himself in scientific studies. He was the first to discover hydrogen gas, which he called “inflammable air” (forming water upon combustion), and to measure its density. The gas was later named by French scientist Antoine Lavoisier. Cavendish is distinguished for his remarkable accuracy in studies of the composition of atmospheric air, the properties of various gases, the law governing electrical attraction and repulsion, measurement of the force of gravity, and calculations of the density (and, by extension, the weight) of the Earth. Though he was a renowned member of the Royal Society of London, he was notoriously asocial and solitary, and may have had Asperger’s syndrome. He was alarmed by women. Because he avoided publishing his work, others were credited with many of his discoveries, including the principles of electrical conductivity.