posted on October 10, 2006 |
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Born: October 10, 1731, Nice, France
Died: March 10, 1810
Henry Cavendish, eldest son of Lord Cavendish, attended Cambridge University for three years, but but never gradualted. He inherited a fortune and went off to lead the life of a solidary bachelor. He spent the whole of his long life on scientific investigations.
He went on to become a chemist and physicist. One of his major accomplishments was recognizing "inflammable air" as a distinct substance ? later to be named hydrogen gas by Antoine Lavoisier.
Before hydrogen was named, it was referred to as "inflammable air." However, we know that hydrogen is very flammable, as we observe in the stars of our universe. Scientists called carbon dioxide "fixed air."
Cavendish was skilled in quantitative measurements. He was able to measure the different densities of common air, hydrogen and other gases. He investigated the composition of the atmosphere and determined that water was composed of two gases (which was the most unusual determination for the time). He determined that water is composed of oxygen and hydrogen by showing that burning hydrogen produced dew. In one of his experiments, he determined the density of the earth. He also devised astronomical instruments. The very famous Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge was named after him.
Another accomplishment to note was that Cavendish determined that the density of the Earth was 5.45. The experiment was not improved upon for nearly 100 years, and the current calculated density is 5.5268.
Cavendish published a few papers in his time, notably Factitious Airs in 1766. He died on March 10, 1810.