The fact that Henry Cavendish had come to symbolize precision and best practice in natural philosophy was important not just to exponents of mathematical physics and physique du globe but also to members of the nascent chemical community in early Victorian Britain. In comparing Cavendish and James Watt, William Vernon Harcourt stated that 'one stands as high in the discovery of natural facts, as the other does in their useful application'. Inevitably, the defence of Cavendish tended to be preoccupied with matters of character. George Wilson's whole account of the controversy was predicated on a concern to assert the standards of modern chemical discipline that Cavendish was taken to prefigure. The chemists appear to have adopted Cavendish as a figurehead, and one of their numbers, Wilson, constructed a complex chemical rationale for awarding the discovery of the composition of water, that centrepiece of the New Chemistry, to him.