Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810) The Weighing of the Earth

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Transcript of Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810) The Weighing of the Earth

  • Slide 1
  • Henry Cavendish (1731 1810) The Weighing of the Earth
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  • Personal Life As the grandson of the Second Duke of Devonshire, he was considered nobility He attended Cambridge University from 1749 1753, but left without earning a degree His inherited fortune enabled him to pursue scientific studies Viewed as solitary and eccentric, he had no friends apart from his family Aspergers Syndrome account for his unusual shyness Prohibited from publishing his work until James Clerk Maxwell looked through his papers Saw credit to most his discoveries had been given to others: Richters Law of Reciprocal Proportions, Ohms Law, Daltons Law of Partial Pressures
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  • Discovery of Hydrogen In 1766, In a paper called On Factitious Airs Cavendish addresses a inflammable air which forms water as a result of combustion. Antoine Lavoisier later reproduced the experiment giving Cavendishs element the name Hydrogen
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  • Composition of Atmosphere Established an accurate composition of the atmosphere ~79% phlogisticated air (nitrogen and argon) ~21% dephlogisticated air (oxygen)
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  • Weighing of Earth Cavendish used an torsion balance apparatus to complete the experiment in 1797 Originally created by John Mitchell who died before he could put it to use Apparatus sent in crates to Cavendish The apparatus consisted of a torsion balance to measure the gravitational attraction between two 350 pound lead spheres Consisted of a 6-ft wooden rod with metal spheres attached to each end, hanging from a wire which twisted as a result of the gravitation attraction between them Wind proof room Torsion of wire measure by the telescope
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  • Gravitation Constant and Mass of Earth With G, he could easily calculate the earths mass to be 5.9725 billion trillion tons (his estimate was 1% off)