Technically speaking, Lord Charles Cavendish
From the perspective of the larger society, Charles Cavendish, who was drawn to experiment and to the instruments of experimental science, would have been seen as overstepping the bounds of his station if he had allowed his experiments to take over his life. The occupational limitations of the aristocracy almost certainly affected the way he worked in science and his scientific reputation, or lack of it. For many years he carried on scientific investigations that were valued and used by other investigators, but he
In 1725, the year after he returned from his Continental tour, Cavendish became a Member of Parliament, as we have seen, but since he was so very young, completely inexperienced, and relatively unknown, he entered slowly into the work of the Commons. As he was also relatively free of family duties, he had time to continue his education. His
De Moivre’s friend Matthew Maty
Since Maty gave only last names, we must decide which “Cavendish” he intended. Writing in the late 1750s, Maty would not have meant Henry Cavendish, who had only recently come down from Cambridge and was not yet a fellow of the Royal Society. Nor was it likely that he had in mind William Cavendish, duke of Devonshire, whom in any case he would have called Devonshire instead of Cavendish. The judgment Maty wanted his readers to make was of De Moivre’s standing among accomplished mathematicians, not among unknowns or persons not known to have had significant mathematical interests. There are two likely possibilities, Charles Cavendish and his uncle James Cavendish. Both were active in the Royal Society, and both were proposed for membership in the Society by De Moivre’s good friend, the eminent mathematician William Jones.7 Together with Devonshire, both also subscribed to De Moivre’s Miscellanea analytica de seriebus et quadraticus; published in 1730, which was the first mathematical or scientific book to which Charles subscribed. James Cavendish was born in 1678, and if he had been a pupil of De Moivre’s he would have belonged to a generation earlier than that of the pupils named by Maty, indicating Charles as the more likely pupil of De Moivre’s. Authors of a study of De Moivre’s “knowledge community” write that both Charles and his uncle James and also his father William “were all taught by De Moivre.”8
Among Charles’s papers, kept and labeled by his son Henry, is a group “Mathematics.” Because of the likelihood that by “Cavendish,” Maty meant Charles Cavendish, and because of the evidence it provides of the mathematical education of the Cavendish family, we include the following brief discussion of De Moivre. De Moivre fostered a sense of connection between his pupils, evidently bringing them together at social evenings, and later keeping them “together as a kind of clique.” Maty kept track of their publications in his Journal Britannique,9 and they appeared together in the list of subscribers to De Moivre’s republication of his mathematical papers.10 Through De Moivre, his pupils formed a living connection with great mathematicians and scientists of the recent past. The intermediary De Moivre
If we leave aside the foreigners named by Maty, we are directed to a select few mathematicians within the larger group of British mathematicians in the early eighteenth century with whom Cavendish came to be associated. For convenience, we will speak of a “De Moivre circle,” whose members give us an idea of the mathematical setting in which Charles Cavendish probably completed his education.
The learned world of London had recently been enriched by an influx of Huguenots, Protestants forced by Louis XIV to leave France with the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Within the Cavendish family, as we have seen, the Ruvignys
In De Moivre’s
In the course of his teaching, De Moivre
Mathematical tutoring served an assortment of ends. It constituted a finishing school for “gentlemen,” which probably would not have attracted Cavendish. Nor would have other common ends such as providing a useful skill for persons who sought public office but lacked the advantage of rank,19 preparing government officials for handling finance, preparing teachers and others who intended to make a living directly from mathematics, and equipping landowners for surveying and military officers for navigation and gunnery. Instead it helped prepare Charles Cavendish for scientific research and administration.
Most of De Moivre’s mathematical friends and pupils will enter this biography again as leading members of the Royal Society.20 Here we briefly discuss two of them, William Jones and George Parker, second earl of Macclesfield
Early in June 1727, De Moivre’s friend William Jones
Until the end of his life, Newton
Historians are divided over the question of the quality of science in the Royal Society
To follow Charles Cavendish’s education in science, we look at the kinds of subjects that came up in the meetings around the time of his election, beginning with practical schemes. In 1627, exactly 100 years before Cavendish entered the Royal Society
Long practiced in the East, inoculation against smallpox had just been introduced in Britain when Cavendish entered the Royal Society. The eminent physician and secretary of the Royal Society James Jurin warmly supported inoculation in the face of opposition from doubting physicians and clerics. The operation posed a risk to the community as well as to the patient, but so did the disfiguring and killing epidemic disease, and Jurin
Inoculation was based on an empirical observation—a mild form of smallpox often prevented a serious infection—insuring that it would become a topic of interest in the Royal Society. From far and near, Jurin received reports of inoculations written down methodically in columns, like weather reports, with which they had a connection. Despite Jurin’s best efforts, inoculation fell into disfavor in Britain owing to deaths in prominent families. It revived in the 1740s as a remunerative surgical practice, but the Baconian promise began to be realized only at the end of the century, when the English physician Edward Jenner introduced cowpox vaccination, a safe method of controlling smallpox, which he came upon in the course of his practice of giving original smallpox inoculations. George III, who was roughly Henry Cavendish’s age, was given Jenner’s cowpox vaccination. Medicine was a large concern of Charles Cavendish’s Royal Society, and though it did not happen to be one of his own, he was an active and longtime governor of the Foundling Hospital where his good friend William Watson regularly gave smallpox inoculations to children over three (Fig. 4.7).36
Inventions came up repeatedly at meetings of the Royal Society. For industry and for domestic heating, coal was increasingly in demand. British forests, the source of firewood and charcoal, were becoming depleted, encouraging the use of coal as the alternative for domestic heating and industry. Mining coal was hazardous because of the accumulation of unhealthy and inflammable air in the pits. Two weeks before Cavendish’s election to the Royal Society, as the annual Sir Godfrey Copley’s Experiment, the curator of experiments Desaguliers reported on his invention to remove bad air from mines and demonstrated it with a working model.37 Through a sister, Charles would become involved in the coal mines of Sir James Lowther, who brought samples of air from his mines to the attention of the Royal Society.
The atmosphere of the Earth was another kind of fluid of practical importance and scientific interest. In 1723 James Jurin
Like Hales’s fixed air, electricity
The breadth of topics discussed at the Royal Society around 1727 was greater than these examples suggest. For instance, from the side of medicine, there were reports on stones, cataracts, and aneurysms. From the side of natural history (and the far-flung British colonies), there were reports on coconuts, cinnamon, and poison snakes, and fossils, curious specimens such as two headed calves, and various natural collectibles were regularly displayed at the meetings. Investigative reports of earthquakes and other singular natural disasters were heard as often as opportunity allowed. Apart from certain formalities—correspondence read, books received, and guests introduced—the meetings were kept reasonably lively by the variety of their proceedings. A fairly typical meeting from around the time Cavendish was elected to the Society was recorded in a private journal kept by John Byrom
The contents of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London
The Royal Society
Directly below the rank of royalty, within the dukedom of the Devonshires, there was about to be another succession, but for the time being Cavendish’s father, the second duke of Devonshire, was still alive. The duke
Encouraged to learn that the king of France had just instituted a medical society, Heberden
John Cannon (1984, 34).
Dorothy Marshall (1968, 219).
Matthew Maty (1760, 39).
De Moivre called William Jones his “intimate friend” in the preface to his book The Doctrine of Chances; or, A Method of Calculating the Probability of Events in Play (London, 1718), x.
De Moivre called Brook Taylor his “Worthy Friend” in his Doctrine of Chances, 101. His correspondence with Taylor is described in Ivo Schneider (1968, 196–197).
In the foreword to his first book, Animadversiones, De Moivre referred to John Colson as one of his pupils, noted by Schneider (1968, 189).
James Cavendish was proposed for membership in the Royal Society on 19 Mar. 1718/1719, and was admitted on 16 Apr. 1719, JB, Royal Society 11:311, 326.
The likely intermediary who supplied De Moivre with a letter of introduction was one of two Huguenot friends, Abraham Meure or John Buissière. D.R. Bellhouse, E.M. Renouf, R. Raut, and M.A. Bauer (2009). Published online before print (25 Feb. 2009 http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/02/23/rsnr.2008.0017.full).
Uta Jannsens (1975, 17). Augustus De Morgan (1857, 341).
The collection is Miscellanea analytica de seriebus et quadraturis (London, 1730), dedicated to Folkes. The list of subscribers could serve as a guide to British mathematics and its patrons in the early eighteenth century.
Mary Berry (1819, 73).
Father and son, “Abraham and Daniel De Moavre,” are listed as being in London as of 16 December 1687, in a request to the attorney or solicitor general to prepare a bill for royal signature making them free denizens of the kingdom. Cooper (1862, 50). Samuel Smiles (1868, 235–238).
Maty (1760, 6–7). Although the Principia was published in the summer of 1687, there is no evidence that Newton came to London to distribute copies of it at that time, and Edmond Halley handled the presentation copies. Moreover, it would have been of no advantage to him that summer to seek Devonshire’s patronage, since he was then out of favor at court, having taken refuge at Chatsworth to avoid being arrested by the king in 1688. By 1689, however, James II had been displaced by William and Mary, at whose court Devonshire had a great deal of influence.
Ian Hacking (1974, 452).
For example, concerning copies of Newton’s Principia promised by De Moivre: letters from Pierre Varignon to Newton, 24 Nov. 1713, and from Johann Bernoulli to G.W. Leibniz, 25 Nov. 1713; in A.R. Hall and L. Tilling (1976, 42–45).
David Brewster (1855, 248). Schneider (1968, 212–213).
In Newton’s dispute with Leibniz over the invention of the calculus. Hacking (1974, 452).
Frederick Charles Green (1931, 31).
A.J. Turner (1973, 51–54).
For example: in addition to Newton, Folkes and Macclesfield were presidents of the Royal Society; Cavendish, Jones, Davall, Scott, and Stanhope were members of the Council; Maty and Taylor were secretaries; Halley was corresponding secretary and editor of the Philosophical Transactions.
Cavendish later loaned his copy of the transcript to the mathematician Samuel Horsley, who was preparing a general edition of Newton’s papers. D.T. Whiteside in Isaac Newton (1967–1969, 1:xxiii; 8:xxvii).
“Jones, William,” DNB, 1st ed. 10:1061–62. E.G.R. Taylor (1966, 293–294). “Jones (William),” in Charles Hutton (1795–1796, 1:43–644).
“Parker, Thomas, first Earl of Macclesfield,” DNB, 1st ed. 15:278–282, on 280. “Parker, George, second Earl of Macclesfield,” ibid. 15:234–235. Brydges (1812, 4:192–194). Charles Richard Weld (1848, 1:514–516). Maty (1787, 696).
8 June 1727, JB, Royal Society 13:103.
8 Feb. 1727/1728, JB, Royal Society 13:175. Weld (1848, 1:461).
Bradley in 1747, quoted in Taylor (1966, 120–121).
Richard Sorrenson (1996, 29–30).
Stephen Hales (1727). Henry Guerlac (1972, 35–36, 41–43). References to the reading of Hales’s discussion of air and to Desaguliers’s repetition of experiments from it: 2, 9, 16 Feb., 13, 20 Apr., 4 May, 8 June, 16 Nov. 1726/1727, JB, Royal Society 13:44–45, 48–50, 70 , 74, 83, 103, 144. Newton’s death caused a cancellation of the Society’s meeting on 23 Mar. 1726/1727, JB, Royal Society 13:62.
8 June 1727, JB, Royal Society 13:99–100.
The criteria of the award have been stated variously at different times. It remains the oldest and most prestigious award of the Society.
Jonathan Swift (1726/1962, 177).
It is widely thought that Hales was Swift’s source, though evidently it is not proven. Clive T. Probyn (1978, 148).
2 Mar. 1726/27, JB, Royal Society, 13:52.
King George I allowed two of his grandchildren, the children of the future George II, to be inoculated in 1722, and they survived. However, two of King George III’s children did not; about three percent of those inoculated did not. Susan Flantzer, “August 20, 1783—Death of Prince Alfred, Son of King George III of the United Kingdom” (http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/featured-royal-date-august-20-1783-death-of-prince-alfred).
Elizabeth Cavendish to James Cavendish, 24 Apr. , Devon. Coll., No. 166.1.
7 Dec., 7, 21 Mar., 11 Apr. 1727/28, JB, Royal Society 13:148, 191, 198, 210. “Jurin, James,” DNB, 1st ed. 10:1117–18, on 1118. Leonard G. Wilson (1973, 96). William H. McNeill (1993, 249–250). After 1800, smallpox mortality in London fell to one half of what it had been in the eighteenth century. Charles Creighton (1965, 479–481, 504, 568).
Desaguliers published the experiments on his model pump for removing bad air from mines in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 34 (1727). Hereafter PT.
11 May, 29 June 1727, JB, Royal Society 13:84–85, 113; 25 Jan. 1727/28, 2 May 1728, 23 Jan. 1728/29, ibid., 168–169, 214, 287. Humphrey Quill (1966, 1–6).
William E. Knowles Middleton (1969, 138).
12 Jan. 1726/27, JB, Royal Society 13:34–36, and many other places.
27 Feb., 13 Mar., 1 May 1728/29, ibid., 307, 316, 330.
Entry for 27 Feb. 1728/1729: R. Parkinson, (1854–1857, vol. 1, pt. 1, 334). 27 Feb. 1728/1729, JB, Royal Society 13:303–307.
Sorrenson (1996, 37). From another source, there is a similar estimate: physics, including mechanics, meteorology, and various border subjects, accounted for about a third of the papers appearing in the Philosophical Transactions. John L. Heilbron (1983, 43).
8 Feb., 4 July, 24, 31 Oct., 7, 14 Nov. 1727/28, JB, Royal Society 13:175–176, 242, 252, 257, 262; 22 May, 5 June 1729, ibid., 339–340, 341.
11 May, 6 July 1727, ibid., 86, 114.
13 Mar. 1728/1729, ibid., 314.
9 Apr. 1730, ibid., 454.
William Heberden to Charles Blagden, 9 Dec. 1778, Blagden Letters, Royal Society, H.22.
Table of Contents
Part I: Lord Charles Cavendish
Part II: The Honorable Henry Cavendish
17 Last Years
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