Authorised form of nameCavendish; Henry (1731 - 1810); natural philosopher
Dates1731 - 1810
Place of birthNice, Kingdom of Sardinia, Europe
Date of birth10 October 1731
Place of deathLondon, England, Europe
Date of death24 February 1810
Dates and placesBurial:
All Saints' Church, Derby (12 March 1810)
Research fieldChemistry
School at Hackney Academy (1742); Peterhouse, Cambridge (admitted 1749, resided until 1753, did not obtain degree)
Discovered the extreme lightness of inflammatory air (hydrogen) and later ascertained that water is composed of two gases; experimented on electricity and the density of the earth; Sir Everard Home (FRS 1787) was called to see him shortly before he died; left a fortune of over £1million
Membership categoryFellow
Date of election01/05/1760
Age at election29
Royal Society activityHe first attended the Royal Society in June 1758, at his father's invitation.

Cavendish actively participated in the Royal Society's 1769 Venus transit observation plans to determine solar parallax. He contributed to the committee's efforts to correct errors and discussed with astronomer royal Nevil Maskelyne (FRS 1758) the gravitational impact of nearby mountains on vertical plumb lines. Cavendish, aiming for precise central force estimation, concluded that gravitational pull, not meridional degrees, was a better guide to understanding the earth's shape.

Medals and prizes:
Copley Medal 1766 "For his Paper communicated this present year, containing his Experiments relating to Fixed Air"
RelationshipsParents: Lord Charles Cavendish (FRS 1727) and his wife, Lady Anne Grey, daughter of Henry Duke of Kent
Grandfather: Lord James Cavendish (FRS 1719);
Great-grandfather: William 1st Duke of Devonshire (FRS 1663)
Uncle: William 3rd Duke of Devonshire (FRS 1747)
Cousin:William 4th Duke (FRS 1761)
Published worksRCN 32611
RCN 31973
RCN 32612
General contextKnown for discovering hydrogen, which he defined as "flammable air"; measuring the Earth's density (Cavendish experiment).
Related imagesDiscover a selection of related images in our picture library

Cavendish H, IM000772.jpg

Bulloch's Roll; DNB; DSB; Venn
J S Rowlinson, 'Aristocratic Physics', review of Christa Jungnickel and Russell McCormmach, Cavendish in NR 1998 vol 52 pp 194-196
Stephen F Mason, 'Jean Hyacinthe de Magellan, FRS, and the Chemical Revolution of the Eighteenth Century' in NR 1991 vol 45 pp 155-164
Jennifer S Pugh and John Hudson, 'The Chemical Work of James Watt, FRS' in NR 1985-86 vol 40 pp 41-52
Trevor H Levere, 'Friendship and Influence: Martinus van Marum, FRS' in NR 1970 vol 25 pp 113-120
Sir John Craig, 'The Royal Society and the Royal Mint' in NR 1964 vol 19 pp 156-167
N G Coley, 'George Pearson MD, FRS (1751-1828): 'The greatest chemist in England'? in NR 2003 vol 57 pp
W P Griffith and P J T Morris, 'Charles Hatchett FRS (1765 - 1847), chemist and discoverer of niobium' in NR 2003 vol 57 pp 299 - 316
F Seltz, 'Henry Cavendish: the catalyst for the chemical revolution' in NR 2005 vol 59 pp 175-199
T Quinn, 'Experiments of Henry Cavendish' in NR 2005 vol 59 pp 215-218
Lord Burlington cited as source of place of birth in DNB.
Virtual International Authority File67259523
Royal Society codeNA8163
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1760/05Cavendish, Henry: certificate of election to the Royal Society
CB/2/703Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish5 October 1790
CB/2/695Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry CavendishAugust 1789
CB/2/626Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish12 March 1792
CB/2/627Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish12 March 1792
CB/2/696Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish26 March 1790
MM/4/84Letter from Henry Cavendish, William Watson, Benjamin Franklin and J Robertson, to the Royal Society18 November 1773
CB/2/525Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish8 June 1791
MM/10/19Letter from James Clerk Maxwell, Cambridge, to RH Scott c.1879
MM/10/18Copy of letter from RH Scott to James Clerk Maxwell9 June 1879
MM/11/41Notes from the minutes of meetings of the Purfleet Magazine Committee1772
IM/003084Michell, John2001
CB/1/3/27Letter from Henry Cavendish to Charles Blagdennd
CB/2/274Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish9 July 1789
CB/2/320Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish12 March 1790
L&P/9/159Paper, 'On the height of the luminous arch which was seen on the 23 February 1784' by Henry Cavendish1789
CB/1/1/254Letter from John William Ponsonby, 4th Earl of Bessborough to Charles Blagden7 March [1810]
CB/1/3/25Letter from Henry Cavendish, Bedford Square to Charles Blagden10 September [c1800]
CB/1/3/28Letter from Henry Cavendish to Charles Blagden, 45 Rathbone Place, Oxford Streetnd
CB/1/3/30Letter from Henry Cavendish, Clapham to Charles Blagdennd
CB/1/3/26Letter from Henry Cavendish to Charles Blagdennd
CB/1/3/32Letter from Henry Cavendish to Charles Blagdennd
CB/1/3/31Letter from Henry Cavendish to Charles Blagdennd
CB/2/581Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish7 November 1791
CB/1/2/11Draft of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish, Bedford Square16 September 1789
CB/1/3/29Letter from Henry Cavendish, Clapham to Charles Blagden, Upper Berkeley Streetnd
CB/2/482Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish27 November 1790
CB/2/550Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish27 July 1791
CB/2/623Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish27 February 1792
CB/2/314Copy of a letter from Charles Blagden to Henry Cavendish16 September 1789
IM/000772Cavendish, Henrynd
L&P/8/64Paper, 'Answer to Mr Cavendish's reply' by Richard Kirwan1784
L&P/11/7Letter, 'Official report on the lightning conductors at Purfleet' from Henry Cavendish and Charles Blagden to Joseph Banks23 June 1796
L&P/4/343Paper, 'Experiments on factitious air, part III' by Henry Cavendish1766
L&P/11/68Paper, 'Experiments to determine the density of the earth' by Henry Cavendish1798
L&P/8/151/2Plate, 'Experiment apparatus' by Henry Cavendish1785
L&P/11/68/2Plate, 'Experimental apparatus' by Henry Cavendish1798
L&P/8/151Paper, 'Experiments on air' by Henry Cavendish1785
L&P/4/369Paper, 'Experiments on Rathbone-place water' by Henry Cavendish11 December 1766
L&P/4/341Paper, 'Experiments on factitious air, part II' by Henry Cavendish1766
L&P/5/264Paper, 'An attempt to explain some of the principal phenomena of electricity by means of an elastic sluid' by Henry Cavendish1771
L&P/8/151/3Plate, 'Experimental apparatus' by Henry Cavendish1785
L&P/5/129Letter, 'The solubility of iron in simple water by the intervention of fixed air' from Timothy Lane to Henry Cavendish5 June 1769
L&P/6/152Paper, 'Some attempts to imitate the effects of the torpedo by electricity' by Henry Cavendish1775
L&P/8/18/1Paper, 'Account of the new eudiometry' by Henry Cavendish1782
L&P/6/97Plates, 'Illustrations for the paper on imitating the effects of the Torpedo by means of electricity' by Henry Cavendish1775
L&P/8/151/1Paper, 'Experiments on air' by Henry Cavendish1785
L&P/6/157Paper, 'An account of the meteorological and magnetic instruments belonging to the Royal Society' by Henry Cavendish1776
L&P/7/92aAddendum, 'An account of the meteorological instruments used at the Royal Society's house' by Henry Cavendish1779
L&P/8/18/3Plate, 'New eudiometry' by Henry Cavendish1782
L&P/8/18/2Plate, 'New eudiometry' by Henry Cavendish1782
L&P/8/55Paper, 'Experiments on air' by Henry Cavendish1783
L&P/11/68/3Plate, 'Experimental apparatus' by Henry Cavendish1798
L&P/8/18Paper, 'Account of the new eudiometry' by Henry Cavendish1782
L&P/8/177Paper, 'An account of Mr McNab's experiments on freezing mixtures' by Henry Cavendish1786
L&P/9/84Paper, 'On the conversion of a mixture of dephlogistocated and phlogisticated air into nitrous acid, by the electric spark' by Henry Cavendish1788
L&P/9/134Letter, 'Experiment on the congelation of quicksilver in England' from Richard Walker to Henry Cavendish 1789
L&P/8/29Paper, 'On Mr Hutchin's experiments for determining the degree of cold' by Henry Cavendish1783
L&P/11/68/1Paper, 'Experiments to determine the density of the earth' by Henry Cavendish1798
L&P/8/60Paper, 'Answer to the objections of Mr Kirwan to his experiments on air' by Henry Cavendish1783
MM/10/17Letter from George Gabriel Stokes, Cambridge, to RH Scott8 June 1879
MM/16/124Letter from WS Harris, Plymouth, to Sir John Herschel26 November 1851
MM/16/125'Abstract of papers by the Hon H Cavendish', by WS Harris1851
DM/4/116Copy of letter from Sir Joseph Banks18 March 1796
L&P/8/48/1Letter, 'On a means of discovering the distance of the fixed stars in consequence of a diminution in the velocity of their light' from John Michell to Henry Cavendish26 May 1783
PT/3/14Paper, 'On an improvement in the manner of dividing astronomical instruments' by Henry Cavendish[1809]
L&P/4/334Paper, 'Experiments on factitious air' by Henry Cavendish1766
L&P/9/96Paper, 'On the production of artifical cold' from Richard Walker to Henry Cavendish27 March 1788
L&P/6/257Paper, 'Report on the graduation of thermometers' by the Royal Society Commitee1777
AP/28/25Unpublished paper, 'On phlogiston and the decomposition of water' by W F [William Ford] Stevenson14 January 1846
AP/32/18Unpublished paper, 'Water and its supposed constituents' by William Ford Stevenson19 March 1850
L&P/12/94Letter, 'Observations on a diurnal variation of the barometer between the tropics' from James Horsburgh to Henry Cavendish20 April 1805
PP/14/21/1Manuscript, 'On the Cavendish experiment' by C V [Charles Vernon] Boys1889
PP/14/21Paper, 'On the Cavendish experiment' by C V [Charles Vernon] Boys1889
L&P/9/79Paper, 'An account of experiments made by Mr J McNab in Hudson's Bay, relative to the freezing of nitrous and vitriolic acids' by Henry Cavendish1788
L&P/8/56Letter, 'Remarks on Henry Cavendish's experiments on air' from Richard Kirwan to Joseph Banks29 January 1784
L&P/6/107Paper, 'Thermometrical observations at Allahabad [Prayagraj] and of the weather in Bengal; with note from Henry Cavendish' by Robert Barker1775
L&P/10/21Paper, 'On the civil year of the Hindoos [sic]' by Henry Cavendish1792
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