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Michael Faraday

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Michael Faraday, FRS (Born::September 22, 1791Died::August 25, 1867) was an important English chemist and physicist who was devout in his beliefs as a Christian. He was self-taught while working in a bookstore, and began his work as a scientist almost fortuitously after seeing a lecture by the famous English scientists, Humphry Davy. Soon afterwards Faraday became Davy's apprentice, then was later appointed to be a Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution. Although he is known mostly for his work in physics, Faraday discovered how to liquefy chlorine, discovered benzene, and invented the first electrical generator.

Christian Faith

Michael Faraday’s parents were Christians who raised him in the Biblical faith, which continued to be very important to him throughout his adult life. Faraday was a committed Christian and controversy over evolution was not mentioned because The Origin of Species wasn't published until Faraday was sixty-nine. Faraday was strongly involved with the Sandemanian Church, which followed the teachings of Robert Sandeman, a Protestant nonconformist. He was an elder at the church for quite some time. Michael Faraday loved God and His creation, and his observations and experiments will not be forgotten in the scientific world.

Michael Faraday: "Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."

Early Life and Childhood

Portrait of Humphry Davy, the chemist who hired Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday was born on September 22, 1791 in Newington Butts to a poor family. His father James worked as a blacksmith apprentice. Faraday was the third of four children in his family. In 1804, at the age of 13 years old, he began to work for a bookseller, George Riebau. He kept this job for seven years, during which he read several books. Two books that especially caught his attention were The Improvement of the Mind by Isaac Watts, and Conversations on Chemistry by Jane Marcet. His love for science and electricity blossomed.[1]

In 1812, after his job as bookseller's apprentice was complete, Faraday received tickets to four of Humphry Davy and John Tatum's lectures. Davy was a well-known chemistry professor, and Tatum the founder of the City of Philosophical Society. Faraday recorded three-hundred pages of notes during Davy's lecture, which he sent to Davy to thank him. Faraday became secretary to Davy, and during this time, damaged his eyesight during an experiment involving nitrogen trichloride. In 1813, Faraday was selected by Davy to take place as Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution, the location of Davy and Tatum's lectures the year before. Faraday had to fill the spot of valet during Davy's tour from 1813 to 1815, which opened many doors for him in the scientific field. Davy's wife denied that Faraday was equal to them and refused to treat him as so. She treated him harshly and tortured him throughout the duration of the tour. Farday even considered giving up science because of Davy's wife's actions. [1]

Scientific Career

At the age of 22 he began working for the chemistry professor, Humphry Davy.[2] He later took Davy's position when he no longer able to fulfill his duties. Faraday was soon appointed to the Fullerian Professorship of Chemistry. This research chair was created specifically for Faraday. He achieved a great deal while in this position. Faraday liquefied many gases, such as chlorine and carbon dioxide. He also discovered benzene and other hydrocarbons while investigating and working with the heating and illumination of oils. Faraday experimented with multiple steel alloys and optical glasses. Aside from these accomplishments, Faraday is most well known for his work in electrochemistry.[3]

Faraday produced mechanical motion in 1821 through the use of a permanent magnet and an electric current. In 1831, he was able to convert magnetic force into electrical force. This led to his invention of the world's first electrical generator. During his experiments, Faraday discovered the two laws of electrochemistry. These are: "the amount of chemical change or decomposition is exactly proportional to the quantity of electricity that passes in solution; and the amounts of different substances deposited or dissolved by the same quantity of electricity are proportional to their chemical equivalent weights".[3] In 1833, Faraday worked alongside classicist William Whewell to determine names related to electrochemistry. Two of these included ion and electrode.[3]

He ultimately discovered many properties of electromagnetism including electro-magnetic induction, electro-magnetic rotations, diamagnetism, and the magneto-optical effect. Two scientific laws are named after him, known as Faraday's Law of Induction, and Faraday's Law of Electrolysis. He also discovered the foundations of the electrical generator, motor, and transformer. Once he performed a risky experiment with himself as a subject. He built a twelve foot square metallic cage that generated static electricity, and to prove that an electric field on a conducting surface is only on the exterior, he stepped inside and was uninjured. Faraday set himself on being an excellent lecturer and his demonstrations awed all who attended. Another achievement that gives Faraday scientific recognition is that he is the only scientist who has two internationally used units of measurement named after him, the faraday, which is a unit of electrical quantity, and the farad, which is a unit of capacitance.

Quotes and Awards

Statue of Michael Faraday at Savoy Place, London, England.

Michael Faraday was very well known for his accomplishments and contributed greatly to the scientific field. He received three major awards during his life: The Copley Medal, 1832 and 1838; the Royal Medal, 1835 and 1846; and the Rumford Medal, 1846. Faraday was Fellow of the Royal Society in 1824, and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1835.[4] Michael Faraday was just as wise with his mouth as with his brain. Some of his famous quotes include:

Within the laws of nature, nothing is too wonderful to be true.
There's nothing quite as frightening as someone who knows they are right.
A man who is certain he is right is almost sure to be wrong.[1]
Water is to me, I confess, a phenomenon which continually awakens new feelings of wonder as often as I view it.
The lecturer should give the audience full reason to believe that all his powers have been exerted for their pleasure and instruction.[5]


A short video biography about Michael Faraday.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Michael Faraday Biography The Famous People. Web. Accessed 17 Apr. 2016. Author Unknown.
  2. Williams, L. Pearce. Michael Faraday Encyclopedia Britannica . Web. Accessed 1 May 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Michael Faraday Chemical Heritage Foundation. Web. Accessed 1 May 2016. Author Unknown.
  4. O'Connor, J J and E F Robertson. Michael Faraday University of St Andrews, Scotland: School of Mathematics and Statistics. Web. Published May 2001.
  5. Michael Faraday Quotes BrainyQuote. Web. Accessed 17 Apr. 2016. Author Unknown.

Additional Information