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Michael Faraday.

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Born September 22, 1791, he grew up in Newington Butts after his family had moved there from Yorkshire in order to try and make a living. His father, a blacksmith, fell ill and could not earn much money. This meant Michael left school at 13 and knew very little about maths, and almost nothing about science. When he went to work as a bookbinder he got his big chance. While binding books at the shop he would read the contents. Since scientists wrote their findings in books and discussed them, this was a great way to learn about science, and how the world works. Later, due to good luck he was working for a man by the name of Humphry Davy. Davy worked at the royal institution, doing demonstrations and lectures. Faraday belonged to a religious group called the sandemanians, which believed in a literal understanding of the bible. This meant he could not hoard or save money. When he married his wife he received financial help from the royal institution. Faraday offered many contributions to the world of science including electrolysis; generators, magnetic fields and electromagnetism, but his greatest contribution to the world would definitely be the electric motor.image00.png

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Faraday also enjoyed the science of chemistry. He did demonstrations at the royal institute where he would show demonstrations of pyrotechnics, big flashes, physical reactions, and chemical reactions, among other things. By combining his enjoyment of chemistry with his knowledge of physics, Faraday made some very important discoveries in electrolysis, which are still relevant today. Faraday revolutionised knowledge of electrolysis by introducing new words. He replaced the previously used ‘pole’ with electrode to describe the object dangled into a solution. He described anode as the electrode where negatively charged gases attract, cathode as the electrode, which attracts positively charged chemicals, electrolyte as anything released at either electrode, anions as electrolytes that collect at the anode, and cations as electrolytes that are drawn to the cathode. All these terms are commonly used in electrolysis today, a real test of how good a word is, is the test of time.

Probably one of Faraday’s most famous inventions is the miner’s safety lamp. During the early 1800’s there was a large demand for coal, mine shafts were being used more. This posed a threat as methane collected in the mins.

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Note: Michael Faraday was an interesting individual as well as a great scientist. To learn more about his life and particularly his scientific work the reader is encouraged to investigate in depth any of the books listed below. Each while similar, gives a different view of the person, Michael Faraday.

  • Agassi, Joseph, Faraday as a Natural Philosopher, Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1970.
  • Crookes, (Editor) A Course of Six Lectures on the Chemical History of a Candle: To which is Added a Lecture on Platinum by Michael Faraday, Chicago News Review 1988.
  • Gooding, &James (editors), Faraday Rediscovered, Stockton Press, London ,1985.
  • Jones, Bence, The Life and Letters of Faraday(2 Volumes) Longmans, Green, London, 1870.
  • Randell, Wilfrid L. ,Michael Faraday, Parsons, London, 1924.
  • Tyndall, J., Faraday as a Discoverer(4th Edition), Longmans, Green, London 1868.
  • Williams, Pearce L., The Origins of Field Theory, Random House, New York, 1966.
  • Williams,Pearce L., Michael Faraday, Basic Books, New York, 1967.

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