Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/441

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PERHAPS the most remarkable character in the history of science is Henry Cavendish. One of the few men of science who have possessed great fortunes, he yet ignored the power of his wealth, allowing himself but few and simple wants. Highest born of the distinguished chemists of Great Britain, he cared nothing for the external advantages of birth, preferring to house himself till forty years of age in his father's stables, where unmolested he might devote his days to the pursuit of truth. Outside the monk's cell and the prisoner's dungeon, few men have lived and held so little communication with their fellows or made so few friendships as he. Yet his fame could not be kept from proclaiming itself even during his lifetime, while to-day he is called the 'Newton of Chemistry' and the 'Father of Quantitative Physics,' being declared by Biot to be 'the richest of scientists, and the most scientific of the rich.'

Of a family, tracing its pedigree to the Lord Chief Justice under Edward III., he was the son of Lord Charles Cavendish, the third son of the Duke of Devonshire, and of Lady Anne Grey, daughter of Henry, Duke of Kent, and was born October 10, 1731, at Nice, Italy, whither his mother had gone on account of ill-health. His mother died two years later, after giving birth to a second son, Frederick; and Cavendish, residing with his father in London till eleven years of age and spending the next eleven years away at school, was deprived at the most critical period of his life of the salutary influences of a happy home, that might have tempered the peculiarities of his character, which in the last analysis, however, are to be referred chiefly to original conformation.

Having entered Peterhouse College, Cambridge, in 17-19, he left in 1753 without taking his degree, a step scarcely due to fear of the examinations themselves, but rather in keeping with his very pronounced shyness, which he was said to possess to a degree bordering on disease. His personal history is a blank for the next ten years, but his subsequent writings show that they were spent in mathematical, chemical and physical research. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1760.

In 1783, the death of his father left him free to follow his own tastes. During his father's lifetime he was kept on an annuity of