Henry Cavendish

Defined the inductive capacity of Dielectrics / insulator.

Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) was an English philosopher, scientist, and chemist. He discovered hydrogen which he named inflatable air. He was an excellent experimentalist, way ahead of his times, and created many carefully designed and ingenious experiments. He conducted experiments in which hydrogen and ordinary air were combined in known ratios which exploded with a spark of electricity. Hydrogen fuel cells can trace the origin to these experiments. He measured density of earth and our current estimates are within 1% of his measurements. His work led others to calculate accurate values of Gravitational constant.

Many of UW ECE students will relate well to him. He was a very shy person and didn’t enjoy company of others especially women. He is known to have built a back staircase to his house so he could get in and out without meeting with his housekeeper. He only communicated with them with written notes.

Modern commenters speculate that he had Asperger syndrome, a form of autism. Unfortunately, he did not publish much of his work. In 1879, Maxwell collected his notebooks and published his work and it was found that he had discovered many laws much earlier before they were credited to other scientists including Ohm’s Law, concept of electric potential (we will see this soon), an early unit of capacitance, formula for capacitance for a parallel plate capacitor, and the concept of dielectric constant of a material (we will see all these too), laws for division of current in parallel circuits (now attributed to Charles Wheatstone, you will cover this in ECE 140).