I’m working to build the Cavendish experiment of 1798 according to Cavendish’s own specifications. I have a question about building materials Cavendish may have used.

Cavendish put his pendulum inside a small building to protect it from wind and rain. The building has dimensions of approximately 3.5 meters. What kind of building materials Cavendish may have used in 1798?

You can see a scale model of the experiment. In the model they chose to make a brick building. Do you think this is what Cavendish used? Was cement in use then?

Cavendish calls this building a "room" and gives no other information about it:

...I resolved to place the apparatus in a room which should remain constantly shut...

Experiments to determine the Density of the Earth. By Henry Cavendish, Esq. F.R.S. and A.S., p.471


1 Answer 1


Cavendish, in the Philosophical Transactions states: "I resolved to place the apparatus in a room which should remain constantly shut .. Fig. 1 is a longtitudinal vertical section through the instrument, and the building in which it is placed". Given the size of Cavendish House (see links below) there is nothing to suggest that he did not simply use a room in his house. This was pretty common at the time, laboratories were simply converted rooms in the owner's house. The science museum model that you link to is probably fairly accurate, they are after all one of the world's foremost museums!

BTW, cement of one form or another had been in use for about 2,000 years before Cavendish's time! Cavendish house was probably built of stone or else brick and rendered. The house was originally built by Thomas Cubitt as his residence. The house was demolished in 1905 so only the photographs below remain.

Cavendish himself was insanely rich. Both his grandfathers were dukes, those of Devonshire (paternal) and Kent (maternal). The Cavendishs traced the family back to Norman times (ie post 1066).

  • It might be worth including an excerpt of the text from the site from your first photo link ' It was in this house that Cavendish made his famous experiment of determining the earth's density... '
    – justCal
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 11:56
  • 1
    I was a bit worried about copyright. Although a local authority, it is a commercial site which charges for the images. I'd hope people just followed the links.
    – user55099
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 12:08
  • But according to Isobel Falconer, he made the experiment in the garden of his house in Clapham, in a shed: p. 473 cavendish-deneyi.com/pdf/…
    – zeynel
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 14:48
  • Also, looking at the classic cross section drawing of the experiment, (the first figure on this page cavendish-deneyi.com/parcalar.html) it seems that he built a speciel room for it. To me this does not look like a room in a house. But we cannot rule it out, I think.
    – zeynel
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 14:52
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    Sorry: I've been timed out. The link from the privacy policy page is to: [email protected], likewise on the terms and conditions page. At the bottom of the page you reference you will see the logos of four museums which make up the Science Museums group, the senior one of which is The Science Museum, founded in 1857. As to who made it: I've no way of knowing, I suggest you contact The Science Museum to find out.
    – user55099
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 15:35

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