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Henry Cavendish: His Force on Gravity
By: Brian H.

Henry Cavendish was born on October 10, 1731. He was raised by both his parents in a family that had many aristocratic ties. He attended the University of Cambridge, but did not finish his degree. Cavendish made many discoveries in the field of chemistry and was known as one of the pneumatic chemists of the 18th and 19th century. However, Cavendish was also very shy and left many of his discoveries unpublished to his death in 1810.

Perhaps his greatest discovery, and the one that pertains to our topic of gravity, is his calculation of the earth’s density. He completed the first experiment to measure the force of gravity between two masses, known simply as the Cavendish experiment. The equipment used for the experiment was called a torsion balance. A torsion balance consists of two masses at opposite ends of a beam. The beam is held up by a wire, each mass sits at a different height because they are both affected differently by gravity. The wire is then twisted, and the torque of the wire is compared with the gravitational force.


This allowed him to calculate the Earth’s density. Knowing the density of the earth, allowed other scientists to calculate the earth’s mass and the gravitational constant we use today. The gravitational constant (G) is 6.67428 X 10ˆ¹¹. It is most notably used in Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation.




Works Cited

Henry Cavendish. (n.d.) Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.wikipedia.org
Torsion Balance. (n.d.) In Encyclpedia Britannica online. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from
http://www.brittanica.com

Serway, R. A., & Faugh, J. S. (2006). Physics. Austin: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.