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The Shy Scientist Greater Than Isaac Newton

Henry Cavendish was a British scientist noted for his numerous works and contributions in the world of physics and chemistry.

Henry Cavendish was born on 10th October 1731 into the family of Lord Charles Cavendish. His father got involved in politics until he dropped it for science.

His father joined a club named Royal Society Club of London. Lord Cavendish always took his son to their club meetings ,where they would discuss about latest scientific discoveries. Henry was of a shy nature but was active in the council of the Royal Society.
He lost  his mother in the year 1733.

Henry Cavendish - The Shy Scientist Who Achieved So Much

It was in the year 1766 that Henry Cavendish pubished an article which brought him to limelight in a newspaper. The headline was -'Factitious Air'
In his article, he described an inflammable air which forms a solvent (water) on combustion. Antoine Lavoisier reproduced Cavendish experiment and gave the element it's name, hydrogen.
Earlier before Cavendish's discovery of the inflammable air (hydrogen), some scientists had already worked on it but he is noted for the discovery of hydrogen because he was the first to recognize it's elemental nature.

He went further to explain that when certain acids react with a metal, that the inflammable air is produced.

(Acids + Metal = Hydrogen gas is liberated ). 

He also produced 'fixed air' (Carbondioxide) and was subsequently awarded with the Royal Society Copley Award.

Henry Cavendish further published an article related to eudiometry, and another concerning the production of water, when the inflammable air burns in a dephlogisticated air (known to be oxygen). Another scientist James Watt however, had published about the composition of water before Henry Cavendish did.

It was also Henry who gave the correct value for the gravitational constant (G).

The shy Henry Cavendish liked to dress in an old fashioned suit.
To the extent was his shyness that he had a back staircase added to his house in order to avoid seeing his housekeeper who was a lady.

He missed club meeting intentionally because of his shy behavior and often times refused to publish his work or even share his discoveries with fellow scientists.

James Clerk Maxwell, in the late nineteenth century found the shy scientist Henry Cavendish's papers which clearly showed that Henry has made a lot of discoveries which other scientists had received credit for.

These included

  • Ohm's Law
  • Law of partial pressure
  • Law of reciprocating proportions
  • Principles of electrical conductivity
  • Charles law.

If only the shy scientist had published his works, he would have achieved a lot more than  Isaac Newton did.

Cavendish's discovered paper works gave other scientists enough to help them on the road to modern ideas. Nothing he did has been rejected, and for this reason he is still, in a unique way, part of modern life.

Henry Cavendish the shy scientist died on 24 Feb 1810 at the age of 78 and was never married.

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This post first appeared on Innovative Future, please read the originial post: here

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The Shy Scientist Greater Than Isaac Newton


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