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Henry Cavendish

Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) was a British chemist and physicist. <ref> Maxwell, J. C. (1967). References "Electrical Researches of the Honourable Henry Cavendish" Retrieved January 29, 2009 from http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Cavendish.html </ref> He was given the credit for discovering the properties of "inflamable air," later named hydrogen by Lavoisier; and by confirming that water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen.

Early Life

Cavendish was born on October 10, 1731 in Nice, France. At the age of 11, Cavendish bacame a student at DR. Newcome's school in Hackey. Seven years later he entered Cambridge in St. Peter's College. <ref> Smith, Frank (2001) “Microscale Gas Chemistry”. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://mattson.creighton.edu/history_gas_chemistry/cavendish.html</ref> Cavendish was also very shy around women and strangers, he tried to avoided ever speaking to them. His shyness made those who "sought his views... speak as if into vacancy. Cavendish died in 1810 and was buried in the church that is now Derby Cathedral, along with many of his ancestors.


Like many before him, Cavendish noticed that a gas was produced when zinc or iron are dropped into an acid. <ref> Maxwell, Jeffrey (2007). "Wolfram Research." Retrieved january 15, 2009, from http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biolgraphy/Cavendish.html</ref> He called this gas "Inflammable air". Using his skills in experimenting, Cavendish was the first to recognize that this inflamable air was lighter than the ordinary air and investigated its specific properties.Cavendish’s careful studies involving calculations in density as well as the densities of several other gases and specific gravity identified the gas as an individual substance. <ref> Smith, Frank (2001) “Microscale Gas Chemistry”. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://mattson.creighton.edu/History_Gas_Chemistry/Cavendish.html</ref> In 1766 he published his first important chemical paper, “Factious Air,” concerning the elemental nature of hydrogen air. <ref>Johnston, Bernard (1994) “Cavendish, Sir Henry.” Collier’s Encyclopedia. New York: P.F Collier.</ref>

The importance of inflammable air became clear about fifteen years after Cavendish Presented his paper. In 1781, fascinated by gases, a chemist by the named Joseph Priestly presented the result of his own experiment to Cavendish. When Priestly used an electrostatic machine to spark ordinary air with inflammable air, he noticed that water was formed. <ref> Crowther, Paul (2005). “Henry Cavendish.” Retrived January 15, 2009, from http://www.chemistry.mtu.edu/~pcharles/SCIHISTORY/HenryCavendish.html</ref> Cavendish repeated this experiment as well, but by using “dephlogisticated air” (oxygen) instead of ordinary air. By sharing the results of their separate experiments, Cavendish and Priestly were able to discover the composition of water.

Two papers on “Experiments with air” were publish in 1784-1785, containing their discoveries of the compound nature of water and the composition of nitric acid. CITATION REQUIRED In the first report, John Waltire performs an experiment that fired a mixture of common air and hydrogen by electricity, with the result that there was a reduction in volume and a deposition of moisture, Cavendish burned about two parts of hydrogen with five common air, and noticed that almost all the hydrogen and about one-fifth of the common air lost their elasticity; and were condensed into a dew which lined the inside of the vessel employed. <ref> Newto, Charles (2001). “NNDB”. Retrieved January 15, 2009 from http://www.nndb.com/people/030/000083778/</ref>. Cavendish believed that this dew is pure water. In the second report he fired by electric spark, a mixture of hydrogen, and found that the resultind water contained nitric acid, which he argued that this must be due to the nitrogen present as an impurity in the oxygen (“phlogisticated air with which it is debased). <ref> Eric, Lewis (2009). Answer.com.” Retrieved January 15, 2009 from http://www.answers.com/topic/henry-cavendish</ref> A few years later Lavoisier claimed that he had discovered how water was formed. It was until the mid-nineteenth century, that Cavendish was given credit for discovering that water is composed of inflammable air and deplogisticated air, or hydrogen and oxygen. <ref> Switzala, Jacob (2005) “Nation Master”. Retrieved January 15, 2009 from http://www.nationmaster.comencyclopedia/henry-cavendish</ref>


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