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Faraday Michael.

posted Jun 25, 2015, 3:04 AM by Upali Salpadoru   [ updated Jul 13, 2019, 11:42 PM ]

Michael Faraday. 


Date of Birth; -  September 22nd.

  Michael was the third child of Margaret Hastwell and James Faraday who lived in a London suburb.  James was a blacksmith struggling to get work; adding to the miseries his health deteriorated with time.  The family though poor was tightly bonded together being the followers of the Sandemanian faith, a sect of the protestant church.

  Michael had on a rudimentary education, in a church school, where he learnt to read write and count.

1804 Age 13 Yrs.        

  In an attempt to help his parents, Michal started to run errands for a book shop owner. It has been quoted that Michael had to manage one week with a single loaf of bread.

1805 Age14                                                                                                             

  Mr George Riebau , the owner of the book shop pleased with the performance and attitude of the lad made him an apprentice to the trade of book binding.  Whenever he had some free time he got engrossed in a book. The employer instead of objecting, encouraged him in this pursuit. A few books on science determined his destiny. One described the production of an electric current, voltaic cells, and another gave simple demonstrations with  common chemicals. He spent a part of his meagre salary to buy the ingredients necessary and carried out chemical magic to the entertainment of a few onlookers.

1810 Age 19Yrs.

His father who was suffering from an illness for some time passed away.

When he heard a famous scientist Mr. John Tatum  was giving a lecture on Natural philosophy (Natural Philosophy was the term used for Physics at the time) He burrowed a shilling from his elder brother, who was also a black smith and attended it.

He wanted to leave the book binding job and get into the sphere of science. So he wrote to Sir Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal Society seeing an opportunity. He failed even to get a reply.


1812 Age 21Yrs.

A customer of the book shop, who had probably seen one of his chemical displays gave him tickets to attend four lectures to be delivered by the world famous chemist Sir Humphrey Davy.

He meticulously followed these taking down notes. He rewrote these very neatly adding illustrations. As he did not have a training in sketching, he begged lessons from an Italian artist in return for dusting his room and blackening his boots.

He collected the papers in order and neatly bound them into a book of 350 pages and sent it to the lecturer. Sir Humphrey highly impressed and flattered promptly replied. “I am far from displeased with the proof you have given me of your confidence, which displays great zeal, power of memory, and attention…. It would gratify me to be of any service to you; I wish it may be in my power.”

1913 Age22Yrs.

Humphrey Davy had an accident in his lab and that made him temporarily incapable of writing. He invited Faraday to help him in taking down notes. In the meantime Davy’s assistant was fired for assaulting the instrument maker. Davy employed Michael as a Chemical Assistant of the Royal Institution at a salary of 25 shillings a week and allotted a room for him to stay at his residence. 

1814 Age 23Yrs.

Despite the war between the two countries, Emperor Napoleon invited Sir Humphrey Davy for a lecture tour in France. The entourage, that set sailed from Plymouth, included Lady Humphrey, her maid and Michael Faraday who was included as the ‘Philosophical assistant’. The personal valet of Sir Humphrey got cold feet and refused to attend. As they had no time to find a new valet that responsibility also fell on Michael Faraday.

Lady Humphrey who disliked Faraday, due to class difference, treated him like a servant. Michael due to his respect and admiration for his master patiently obeyed her orders for the duration of two years. For Michael, Sir Humphrey was more than a demigod, a mine of inexhaustible knowledge.

When Sir Humphrey isolated Iodine from a mysterious substance given to him by Monsieur Ampere on the tour Michael was also a party to it.

This two year tour was a University seminar for Michael. He met the famous French scientists ranging from Signor Alessandro Volta in Paris to Monsieur Ampere in Milan who frankly disclosed almost everything they knew. Faraday absorbed every crucial fact that was discussed and came home determined to bind the rest of his life to science.

1816  Age 25Yrs.

On their return Davy promoted Faraday as a permanent employee of the Royal Institute on a salary of 30 shillings a week. He did not fail to send a part of it to his mother for the education of his sister.  

It was a great relief for him to have escaped from the clutches of Lady Humphrey.

1820  Age 29Yrs.

When Sir Humphrey went to France again Michael tactfully avoided it and spent time with his first love Chemistry. It was not in vain as he discovered some compounds of chlorine and carbon.

When Danish Professor Oersted discovered that a magnetic needle can be disturbed by a current carrying wire nearby, his enthusiasm in electro magnetism got ignited.  

1821  Age 30Yrs.

Faraday married Sarah Barnard, a family friend they used to meet in church. Davy making sure not to lose him got him appointed as the Acting Superintend of the Royal Institution and  grant permission for the couple to live there.

Faraday made his first important discovery which drives all electrical spinning,   rotating and turning in appliances and machinery.  He discovered that a current carrying wire can revolve around the pole of a magnet. (Yet it took more than two decades from this day to develop the electric motor) 

Then for a few years he stopped research and worked as a consultant to  commercial establishments. From this he derived a sufficient income.

1823  Age 32Yrs.

He was able to liquefy a gas for the first time in the history of science; the gas was Chlorine.

Fig.2 A demonstrating using this can summarise what he discovered.

1824  Age 33Yrs.

When he was to be elected to be a member of the Royal Society, then the president of the society, Sir Humphrey Davy, vehemently opposed it. Either he was jealous of Faraday or he did not want one of his subordinates to be on par with him. Despite of his protest Faraday got elected as a fellow of the Royal Society.

Any this event did not reduce the admiration and respect Faraday had for Sir Humphrey Davy.

1825  Age 35Yrs.

He  became the  Director of the RI Laboratories.

He isolated the organic compound Benzene.

1829  Age 38Yrs.

It was customary to conduct public lectures during the Christmas vacation by the leading scientists. In 1825 they started lectures aimed at a juvenile audience. When Michael Faraday started lectures they became very popular. He devoted much time and effort in preparing for these. “Chemical history of the candle” was one series of 6 lectures, which was available in the form of a book. It deals with the Chemistry and Physics of the Flame.

1830 Age 39Yrs.

His popularity reached a peak, commercial companies depended on him for expert advice. This quickly pushed him from the poor to the richer class. He made close upon £ 5,000./ year.

He stopped working for the Royal Society in London and would gave up professional practice completely. He wanted to devote himself entirely for scientific research.  According to some historians this move retarded the development of the electrical industry. From that day onwards his income decelerated.    

Fig.3 They still conduct lectures mainly for children in his name.

1831 Age 40 Yrs

Another outstanding discovery was what he demonstrated at a Royal Institution lecture in August. He showed that a change in one electrical circuit can produce a current in a nearby circuit if both coils are wrapped around an iron core. This is thee basis for many electrical appliances including transformers.  (One year later Joseph Henry also discovered this independently) This phenomenon is known as Electro magnetic induction and it paved the way for Electro magnetic theory of James Clerk Maxwell and the Special theory of Albert Einstein.

1832 Age 41Yrs.

He received a honorary Doctorate from The University of Oxford.

1833  Age 42Yrs.

He became Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution.

Faraday made important discoveries in electrochemistry.

1834 Age 43Yrs.

He changed his life style and stopped dining out and meeting people.

1836 Age 45Yrs.

He was made a Member of the Senate of the University of London; a Crown appointment.

1838 Age 47Yrs.

Was elected a foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The only people he ever met outside the science community were from the  audience that attended his lectures. His lectures became popular day after day. It was a very queer situation,”Just as popularity ascended, his income descended”.

Sarah in spite of his frugal ways found it difficult to make the two ends meet. They had to depend on the salary of £ 100. a year.

When the plight of this great man was discreetly pointed out to The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, he said, “ I am sure no man living has a better claim for consideration from the state.” Unfortunately he was defeated at the election that followed. Lord Melbourne that came to power refused the pension outright. Faraday’s followers who refused to accept the verdict forwarded the case to King William IV. It is said that he almost in tears, overruled the former decision and granted a £300/year pension.

1839 Age 48Yrs.

He had been working so hard that he suffered from a severe nervous breakdown.

1841  Age 50Yrs.

When he was recovering Sarah took him to Switzerland for convalescence.

1844  Age 53Yrs

Became one of eight foreign Members elected to the French Academy of Sciences

1845  Age 54Yrs.

Once again he commenced research and made a discovery that no normal scientist could have achieved.  He was showed that a strong magnetic field could rotate the plane of polarisation in light, and that the angle of rotation was proportional to the strength of the magnetic field.

He also showed that all matter are affected by magnetism.

He accepted to work in an advisory capacity, for a body that controlled Light Hoses in England. He found this work relaxing and enjoyable, and he succeeded in getting one lit by electricity for the first time.

1857 Age 66 Yrs.

He declined the offer of the Presidency of the Royal Society. When Humphrey Davy retired Faraday became the head of the Royal Institution laboratory. He declined a knighthood saying, ”I must remain plain Michael Faraday to the last”

1867  Age 76Yrs.

Michael Faraday passed away peacefully. As he had declined a buerial at West Minster he was laid down at Highgate Cemetry.