Henry Cavendish - hydrogen gas discoverer

Henry Cavendish – discoverer of hydrogen gas

Henry Cavendish

Henry Cavendish Biography & Contributions

Henry Cavendish was a British natural philosopher, scientist, and an important experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist. He is best noted for his discovery of hydrogen and the properties of different gases, the synthesis of water, measured Earth’s density. His experiment to weigh the Earth has come to be known as the Cavendish experiment.

Cavendish determined the specific gravity of these gases with reference to common air, investigated the extent to which they are absorbed by various liquids.

He described a new eudiometer of his own invention, with which he achieved the best results to date, using what in other hands had been the inexact method of measuring gases by weighing them.

In 1783 he published a paper on the temperature at which mercury freezes and in that paper made use of the idea of latent heat.

Cavendish also investigated the products of fermentation, showing that the gas from the fermentation of sugar is indistinguishable from the “fixed air” characterized as a constituent of chalk and magnesia by Black.

He was glinting air with excess oxygen over alkali until no more absorption took place and noted that a tiny amount of gas could not be further reduced. Cavendish observed that, when he had determined the amounts of phlogisticated air (nitrogen) and dephlogisticated air (oxygen), there remained a volume of gas amounting to 1/120 of the original volume of nitrogen.

He demonstrated that if the intensity of electric force was inversely proportional to distance, then the electric fluid in excess of that needed for electrical neutrality would lie on the outer surface of an electrified sphere.


Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, nonmetallic, highly combustible diatomic gas. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical substance in the universe, constituting roughly 75% of all baryonic mass. It plays a particularly important role in acid-base reactions as many acid-base reactions involve the exchange of protons between soluble molecules. Hydrogen plays a vital role in powering stars through the proton-proton reaction and the CNO cycle nuclear fusion.

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