Considered by many the best experimentalist in history, he found many important principles for modern science. His inventions are so involved in our every day life yet many don’t realize to what extent, however, a high schooler could teach him math and algebra. He was an elder that preached at his church and did detective work for England. Here is my short study on one of the most important scientists in history:
Michael Faraday, the son of James Faraday (a blacksmith), was born abut a mile from the London Bridge in Newington Butts, Surrey (currently London) on September 22, 1791. James Faraday was a member of the Glassite sect of Christianity. His family was poor and He and his 3 brothers and sisters had very little education and for the most part had to educate themselves. At 14 years of age, he was apprenticed to a book binder/seller and this contact with books greatly educated him and gave him a love of reading and ultimately a curiosity for creation.
Michael Faraday ended his apprenticeship in 1812 after 7 years of work at 21 years of age. He began watching science lectures by Humphry Davy (of the Royal Institution) and John Tatum (founder of the City Philosophical Society). He took careful notes on all of the lectures and with them made a 300 page book and sent them to Davy Humphrey. Obviously impressed, Davy responded. Later on, Davy asked Michael Faraday to be his secretary, due to the fact that he had damaged his eye sight in a chemical accident. In March, 1813 a replacement was needed at the Royal Institution for Chemical Assistant. Davy (being of the Royal Institution) asked Michael Faraday to fill this job. He would work at the Institution until 1862.
Further into 1813, Davy went on a 2 year tour of Europe to study his theories on volcanic activities, taking Faraday along as assistant and temporary valet. Unfortunately, due to his background and the class system in England at the time, his trip was made quite miserable by people who thought themselves high class, specifically Jane, Davy’s wife. This also attributed to the fact that it took for a while Faraday to gain respect, despite his genius. Still he learned a great deal on science during the trip and met many important scientist of the current day. Also, his work with Davy greatly influenced his way of thinking.
While Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution, his experiments stayed in the chemistry area. This led him to 3 important discoveries. Two of them were the discovery of new carbon chlorine’s and the liquidifying of chlorine and other gases. The third was the isolating of benzene in 1825. The latter became very important in later years and well used. It was mixed in with the fuel of early gasoline cars, used in several industrial chemicals and components, used in some types of plastics and other uses. That same year he was appointed to be director of the institution’s laboratory.
On June 12, 1821 Michael Faraday married Sarah Barnard 1821. She was from the same church and that was where they met. They never had children.
After the discovery of benzene Michael Faraday started working on his favorite subject, electricity. And with his first discovery, he blasted open a totally new way of thought and understanding about electricity and a whole truckload of discoveries. These discoveries and inventions are the ones he is most renowned for.
He began to study the connection between magnetism and electricity by observing the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a DC electric current. Results began to bloom in 1831 when he discovered the principle of induction and some associating theories. This led Michael Faraday to establish the principles which our world revolves around and thus invent the electric motor (1831) and the dynamo (a type of early generator) (1831).
In 1807, when Michael Faraday was 16 years old, Humphery Davy showed that the metals sodium and potassium can be separated using an electrical current. (This is called electrolysis and can be used with several chemicals and metals to separate them into their basic elements). Faraday began a strimulating chase on deepening the subject. Hot on the trail, he established the 2 laws of electrolysis in 1834 (following the incorrect, but then accepted, theory stating that electricity is what heat, light, magnetism and other forces of nature are made of). Through a tiringly large amount of experiments, in 1837 he demonstrated that electrostatic force consists of a field of curved lines of force, and conceived a specific inductive capacity, proved many theories on many subjects such as static electricity, established the basis for the electromagnetic field concept in physics. He discovered that magnetism could affect rays of light (1845) and that there was an underlying relationship between the two phenomena. This is now known as the Faraday Effect. He also invented an early form of the Bunsen burner and the system of oxidation numbers and popularized terminology such as anode, cathode, electrode, and ion. The SI unit of capacitance, the farad, is named after him, as is the Faraday constant, the charge on a mole of electrons.
He is also famous for the Faraday cage, Faraday constant, Faraday cup, Faraday paradox, Faraday rotator, Faraday-efficiency effect, Faraday wave and the Faraday wheel.
Michael Faraday was a very active Christian (and member) at the Sandemanian Church. For a while later he was a bishop, and even further on he served 2 terms as an Elder and preached there on occasion. Jane Pollack wrote describing Faraday preaching, “It was an irresistible eloquence which compelled attention and invited upon sympathy. There was a gleaming in his eyes which no painter could copy, and which no poet could describe. Their radiance seemed to send a strange light into the very heart of his congregation, and when he spoke, it was felt that the stir of his voice and the fervor of his words could belong only to the owner of those kindling eyes.” Wikipedia commented saying biographers have noted that “a strong sense of the unity of God and nature pervaded Faraday’s life and work.
“Friedrich Von Raumer described Faraday saying “He (Michael Faraday) speaks with ease and freedom, but not with a gossipy, unequal tone, alternately inaudible and bawling, as some very ‘learned’ professors do; he delivers himself with clearness, precision and ability.”
A couple times when Michael Faraday was already quite famous he did ‘detective’ work for England. Such was the case when a coal mine blew up. Together with Charles Lyell they solved the case and concluded… Another time he was asked to investigate the stench coming from the Thames River. And in 1853 England asked him to develop a poisonous gas for the use in the Crimean War. However he refused to help with this development.
Michael Faraday wrote many books describing his work and even when he was older and retired, he gave lectures and even some children’s lectures.
Michael Faraday died at 65 years of age on August 25, 1857. England honored him with the Royal Medal in 1835 and 1846, the Copley Medal in 1832 and 1838 and the Rumford Medal in 1846. England has made many parks, statues and memorials honoring Michael Faraday and for a decade his picture was on the back of E £20 Series.
The list of achievements, inventions, discoveries and developments take up a lot more space then what I have written. However I hope that this report will give you as much respect for Michael Faraday as I have come to have.
Byron William Atha, III
The information used to write this report was taken from the following websites.
Dr. Paar’s Famous Scientists and Astronomers at… http://www.phy.hr/~dpaar/fizicari/index.html