Henry Cavendish (born: October 10, 1731 / died: February 24, 1810)
|The grandson of the Second Duke of Devonshire, he attended
Cambridge from 1749 to 1753 but left without taking a degree. He inherited
a large fortune which enabled him to pursue his scientific studies, most of
which remained unpublished during his lifetime.
He is generally credited with having discovered hydrogen, since he had described the density of 'inflammable air', which formed water on combustion, in a paper "On Factitious Airs" that appeared in 1766. Antoine Lavoisier later reproduced his experiment and gave the element its name.
Cavendish is also credited with one of the earliest accurate
calculations of the mass of the earth. He used a torsion balance to measure
the gravitational attraction between lead spheres in 1798, from which he
calculated Newton's gravitational constant, 'G', which he used to calculate
the earth's mass.
He was silent and solitary, viewed as somewhat eccentric, and
formed no close personal relationships outside his family. The contemporary
accounts of his personality have led modern commentators to speculate that
he had Asperger's syndrome.