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Henry Cavendish was an English natural philosopher, scientist, and a notable experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist. Cavendish was known for his great accuracy and precision in his studies into the composition of air, most especially his discovery of hydrogen.
See the fact file below for more information on the Henry Cavendish or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Henry Cavendish worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY
- Born on October 10, 1731 in Nice, Kingdom of Sardinia, Henry Cavendish was the son of Lady Anne de Grey, fourth daughter of the First Duke of Kent, and Lord Charles Cavendish, third son of the Second Duke of Devonshire.
- His mother died shortly before Henry’s second birthday and three months after the birth of his brother Frederick.
- He was given the name “The Honourable Henry Cavendish.”
EDUCATION ANS CAREER BEGINNINGS
- At the age of 11, he enrolled at Newcome’s School, a private institution close to London.
- He attended the University of Cambridge when he was 18 years old.
- On February 23 1751, he left college without taking a degree and lived with his father in London, where he had his own laboratory.
- Henry’s father spent his life mostly in politics and then increasingly in science, especially in the Royal Society of London.
- In 1758, he brought Henry to assemblies of the Royal Society and also to dinners of the Royal Society Club.
- In 1760, Henry became part of these groups, and was active in the Council of the Royal Society of London.
- His knowledge and interest in handling scientific apparatus led him to lead a committee to review the Royal Society’s meteorological instruments and to help evaluate the instruments of the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
- Factitious Airs, his first paper, appeared in 1766.
- Henry accompanied his father as an elected trustee of the British Museum, to which he spent most of his time and effort.
- Soon after the Royal Institution of Great Britain was formed, Henry became a manager and was fascinated in the laboratory, where he observed and assisted Humphry Davy in most of his chemical experiments.
- After he lost his father, Henry started to work with Charles Blagden, a British physician and scientist who won the Copley Medal in 1788.
- Henry published a few papers and no books, but he gained a lot of achievements. Several areas of research, such as mechanics, optics, and magnetism, were mentioned in his manuscripts.
- He was thought to be one of the so-called pneumatic chemists of the 18th and 19th centuries, together with Joseph Priestley, Joseph Black, and Daniel Rutherford.
- He found out that a definite, odd, and highly inflammable gas was formed by the movement of specific acids on certain metals. He called this the “Inflammable Air,” now know as hydrogen.
- Even though Robert Boyle had used hydrogen gas earlier, Henry was given the credit for distinguishing the elemental nature of hydrogen.
- In 1777, Henry found out that air taken in by mammals can be converted to “fixed air,” or carbon dioxide, not “phlogisticated air” as Joseph Priestley proposed.
- Henry produced carbon dioxide by dissolving alkalis in acids. He collected these samples, together with other gases, in bottles inverted over water or mercury.
- After collecting samples, he measured their solubility in water and their specific gravity and focused on their combustibility.
- A year later, he concluded in his paper “General Considerations on Acids” that respirable air contains acids. This research gained him the Royal Society’s Copley Medal.
- In 1783, he published a paper about the measurement of the goodness of gases for breathing – eudiometry, where he mentioned his own version of a eudiometer (an instrument used to measure the change in volume of a gas mixture after a physical or chemical change).
- He replicated Priestley’s 1781 experiment where he published a paper on the production of pure water by burning hydrogen in “dephlogisticated air” or air in the stage of combustion, now commonly known as oxygen.
- This same year, he published another paper on the temperature at which mercury freezes; he made use of the idea of latent heat. His theory was both mathematical and mechanical: it has the principle of the conservation of heat and the concept of the mechanical equivalent of heat.
- In 1785, Henry studied the composition of common air, achieving accurate results. He performed experiments in which hydrogen and ordinary air were mixed in known ratios and then exploded with a spark of electricity.
- He also conducted an experiment in which he was able to get rid of both the oxygen and nitrogen gases from a sample of atmospheric air until only a small bubble of unreacted gas was present in the original sample.
- Published in 1798 was one of his most famous contributions – the Cavendish Experiment.
- This experiment determined the density of the Earth, where he used a modification of the torsion balance, made by Englishman and geologist John Michell.
- Using this equipment, Henry was able to solve for the attraction between the balls from the period of oscillation of the torsion balance, and then he used this value to find the density of the Earth.
- He found out that the Earth’s average density is 5.48 times times greater than that of water.
- His work led to accurate values for the gravitational constant G and Earth’s mass.
DEATH, PERSONALITY, AND LEGACY
- Henry died at Clapham on February 24, 1810. He was buried, along with his ancestors, in Derby Cathedral.
- At his death, he was the largest depositor in the Bank of England.
- He was notoriously shy; he was uncomfortable in society and stayed away from people when he could.
- He was an introvert. He could only talk to one person at a time, and only if males who he knew.
- His only social outlet was the Royal Society Club, where he seldom missed meetings.
- Henry never married and stayed single until his death.
Henry Cavendish Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Henry Cavendish across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Henry Cavendish worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Henry Cavendish who was an English natural philosopher, scientist, and a notable experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist. Cavendish was known for his great accuracy and precision in his studies into the composition of air, most especially his discovery of hydrogen.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Henry Cavendish Facts
- Cavendish Who?
- Fact Checkpoint
- Life Timeline
- Chemistry or Physics?
- Other Notable Veterans
- Hydrogen Discovery
- All About H
- The Cavendish Experiment
- A Quote From Cavendish
- Letters to Henry
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Link will appear as Henry Cavendish Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, July 5, 2020
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