From a modern perspective one might question the need to take the water controversy at all seriously. James Watt and Henry Cavendish appear to the modern eye unequally matched in the delayed-priority dispute. Indeed, in adopting the empirical conception of discovery and seeking to shift the terms of the contest to approximate to a purely evidential matter, the advocates of Watt tacitly, and sometimes explicitly, acknowledged their lack of scientific credibility. Through such texts and popular accounts in encyclopaedias, and increasingly through historical works, the Cavendish gospel was propagated. Any sense of the rhetorical and interested character of arguments in the water controversy was lost, as William Whewell and George Peacock thoroughly naturalized Cavendish's 1781 experiments as the discovery event, and reified the great natural philosopher as the discoverer. John Herschel was less of a hard-liner than his clerical friends on science-technology hierarchies, and more inclined than them to distribute credit between Cavendish and Watt.