Henry Cavendish

On this date in 1731, chemist/physicist Henry Cavendish was born in Nice, France, to an English family. Educated at Cambridge, he devoted the study of his life to chemistry. Among his contributions: discerning the composition of water and of the atmosphere, taking the first accurate measurement of the mass of the earth, and isolating hydrogen ("inflammable air"). Considered morbidly shy, especially of women, he left his female servant his meal orders in writing. He was one of England's wealthiest men by the age of 40 due to inheritances. His one social outlet was the Royal Society Club. Although he made numerous experiments, Cavendish published only 20 articles. A century after his experiments in electricity, James Maxwell discovered Cavendish's work and published it for the first time. Cavendish did not attend church, and was an agnostic. D. 1810.

“As to Cavendish's religion, he was nothing at all.”
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—Biographer Dr. G. Wilson, Life of the Hon. H. Cavendish, 1851, (p. 180), cited by Joseph McCabe, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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