Lord Charles Cavendish

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Lord Charles Cavendish FRS (17 March 1704 – 28 April 1783) was a British nobleman, Whig politician and scientist.

Cavendish was the youngest son of William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire and Rachel Russell.

On 9 January 1727, Lord Charles Cavendish married Lady Ann Grey (died 20 September 1733), daughter of Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent. They had two children: Henry Cavendish (10 October 1731 – 24 February 1810), considered one of the most accomplished physicists and chemists of his era; and Frederick Cavendish (24 June 1733 – 23 February 1812).

Cavendish entered the House of Commons for Heytesbury in 1725 and would remain a member in various seats until 1741, when he turned the "family seat" of Derbyshire over to his nephew William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington.

Scientific research[edit]

In 1757 the Royal Society (of which he was vice-president) awarded him the Copley Medal for his work in the development of thermometers which recorded the maximum and minimum temperatures they had reached.

Charles Cavendish was also one of the early experimenters with the electrical storage device, the Leyden Jar, which came to England in 1746. His interest in electrical research was passed on to his son Henry Cavendish (1731-1810) who was also a prominent member of the Royal Society. Henry Cavendish was even better known than his father for electrical experiments, and also for other discoveries in physics, including the famous torsion-balance measurement of the mass of the earth.

One of Charles Cavendish's experiments with electricity appears to have been an attempt to replicate the plasma glow seen during the early Francis Hauksbee experiment with a semi-vacuum in the friction-generator's glass globe. A recent thesis on plasma arcs mentions Priestley's account of a replication of this by the experimenter Benjamin Wilson (1721-1788):

In 1759, when Wilson repeated experiments “first contrived by Lord Charles Cavendish,” he observed a “singular appearance of light upon one of the surfaces of the quicksilver,” (from The History and Present State of Electricity, J Priestly (1775) vol. I, p. 355). The quicksilver (mercury) was part of the evacuation scheme, and it is not clear, but possible, that Wilson was referring to a cathode spot on mercury.


  • familysearch.org Accessed November 4, 2007
  • [1] Tracking Down the Origin of Arc Plasma Science. by André Anders
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Pierce A'Court
Edward Ashe
Member for Heytesbury
With: Edward Ashe
Succeeded by
Horatio Townshend
Edward Ashe
Preceded by
Charles Montagu
The Lord Carpenter
Member for Westminster
(with William Clayton)
Succeeded by
William Clayton
Sir Charles Wager
Preceded by
Godfrey Clarke
Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Bt
Member for Derbyshire
(with Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Bt)
Succeeded by
Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 4th Bt
Marquess of Hartington