Scientist and inventor Tiberius Cavallo was born on 30 March 1749 in Naples, the son of a physician. In 1771 he moved to England. With a keen interest in the new reseach domain of atmospheric electricity, he designed an electrometer for measuring quantities of electricity. In October 1775 he published a notice of ‘Extraordinary Electricity of the Atmosphere observed [from his home] at Islington’.
In 1777 he published A Complete Treatise on Electricity which earned him a reputation within the Royal Society of which he was elected a Fellow in December 1779. Serving as the Royal Society’s Bakerian Lecturer between 1782 and 1792, he was a popular communicator of scientific developments. His study on The Theory and Practice of Aerostation (1785) was the first English-language treatise on ballooning. It contains a historical summary of aerostatic experiments. His work influenced pioneer balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard. He also acted as an international agent for London instrument makers.
Cavallo was an amateur musician with the professional ambition to improve the quality of instruments. In 1788 he published an essay ‘Of the Temperament of those Musical Instruments, in which the Tones, Keys, or Frets, are Fixed’ which inspired technological interest in various aspects of musical activity (keyboard contruction, pitch control, tuning stability, etc.). He is also remembered as a profilist (a silhouette portrait painter). Cavallo died in London in December 1809.