Number 7: Henry Cavendish
Henry Cavendish (1731 –1810) was a British natural philosopher, scientist of experimental and theoretical chemistry and physics. While the periodic table was formulated around his time, Cavendish is noted for his discovery of water as a compound composed of oxygen and hydrogen, and identified hydrogen, which he called “flammable air”, to have its own specific properties, and thus, is an element in and of itself. Among his greatest achievements was the calculation of the mass of the earth and how gravity related to that mass. This discovery may have been overshadowed by his quirky behavior.
Cavendish was known for his anti-social behavior. There are accounts of him having his maids enter through a separate entrance so that he would not have to face them. Cavendish was silent and solitary, viewed as somewhat eccentric, and formed no close personal relationships outside his family. Mental health at that time was not as mainstream as it is today. People at that time just chalked him up to be eccentric. We are now aware of a great many disorders and the symptoms’ they create. Now, scholars hypothesize he was struggling with a form of functioning autism known as Asperger syndrome. Others say that he was exhibiting symptoms of paranoid Schizophrenia. Because of his asocial and secretive behavior, he often avoided publishing his work, and much of his findings were not even communicated to his fellow scientists. If the diagnosis of Asperger or schizophrenia are true, it is a tribute to the unrelenting power of the mind and the will to overcome it and still produce great works to advance humanity.