Preface and Acknowledgements

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Jungnickel, Christa and McCormmach, Russell (2016). Preface and Acknowledgements. In: Cavendish: The Experimental Life (Second revised edition 2016). Berlin: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften.

Fifteen years have passed since my wife Christa Jungnickel and I published Cavendish, the Experimental Life.1 In the meantime, I have published two books about Cavendish. The first, Speculative Truth, is about Cavendish’s work in theoretical physics.2 He is known primarily as an experimentalist but he was no less accomplished as a theorist, and this book helps correct a partial view of his work. Cavendish exhibited some of the most baffling behaviors in the history of science, which are taken up in the second book, The Personality of Henry Cavendish.3 We only touched on this subject in our biography, and to that extent it was incomplete.

Cavendish was a “great man with extraordinary singularities,” his colleague Humphry Davy observed. The new edition of the biography brings a fuller understanding to what was “great” about Cavendish, and as well to what was “extraordinary” about his personality, and by clarifying the connections between the two, it more fully integrates his personality and his work. The new materials and perspectives complete the biography of Cavendish. As with any revision, this one also makes improvements of the usual kind: it corrects flaws in the original, sharpens discussions, introduces new materials, and improves the writing throughout.

We express our gratitude to persons who read part or all of the original book in manuscript and to others who in one form or another have given encouragement, advice, and help: Mark Bonthrone, William H. Brock, I. Bernard Cohen, Arthur L. Donovan, Mordechai Feingold, John Gascoigne, Charles C. Gillispie, Jan Golinski, Sean Goodlett, Peter Harman, Patrick Henry, Ingrid Hofmaster, Sean Kissane, Carmen Mayer-Robin, David Philip Miller, Betty Mohr, Joseph F. Mulligan, Rosemarie Ostler, Jean Luc Robin, Richard Sorrenson, and Mary Lou Sumberg. We have been aided in our study of Cavendish by many archivists. Here we give special thanks to the archivists in charge of the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth, which contains Henry Cavendish’s scientific manuscripts: Peter Day, Charles Nobel, Michael Pearman, Andrew Peppitt James Towe, and Thomas Wragg.

Russell McCormmach

March 25, 2015


Jungnickel und McCormmach (1999).

McCormmach (2004).

McCormmach (2014).