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Biography of Michael Faraday

Photo of Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday was a nineteenth century scientist noted for his work on electricity.

When and Where was he Born?

22nd September 1791, Newington Butts, now part of Southwark, England.

Family Background:

Michael Faraday was the son of a journeyman Blacksmith and a member of the Glassite Christian sect.

Education:

Teachings by members of the Sandemanian Sect.

Timeline of Michael Faraday:

1805: Faraday becomes apprenticed to a local bookseller and bookbinder where he develops an interest in science after having read many of the books on display.

1812: He attends lectures at the Royal Institution given by Sir Humphry Davy. Faraday sends Davy his notebook from the lectures which ran to over three hundred pages which impressed Davy immensely.

1813: Faraday is appointed as a Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution which in effect means he is Davy’s assistant even though Davy had turned him down for that job. Faraday invents the Bunsen burner in the course of this work. In October Faraday accompanies Davy and his wife to Paris. They receive a special pass from Napoleon Bonaparte to make journeys in France to study vulcanism. Faraday initially attends officially as Davy’s valet as his normal valet refuses to go. His wife Jane Apreece always treated him like a servant and makes him travel on the outside of the coach and eat with the other servants.

1815: He returns to England and continues assisting on experiments at the Royal Institution.

1821: He marries Sarah Barnard on 12th June. He invents the first electric motor after previously working on the principle of the dynamo which had a conductor wound around a magnetic field.

1823: He liquefies Chlorine.

1824: Faraday is elected a Member of the Royal Society.

1825: He is appointed director of the laboratory at the Royal Society.

1826: Faraday starts the Royal Institution’s Friday Evening Discourses and the Christmas Lectures.

Royal Institution, London
The Royal Institution, London

1829: Death of Sir Humphrey Davy.

1831: He begins a series of experiments which leads to the discovery of electromagnetic induction and the induction ring. He observed that a moving magnet induces an electric current in a coiled wire. This led him to develop the transformer. He was to be the first to use terms such as electrode.

1832: Faraday works on the effects of static electricity and stated the laws of Electrolysis. He uses the word Ion for the particles he believes actually carry the electric current. He is granted an Honorary Doctorate by Oxford University.

1833: He is appointed Fullerian Professor of Chemistry.

1836: He is appointed Scientific Adviser to Trinity House.

1839: He continues his work on electrolysis and magnetism and proposes that only a single type of electricity exists but that different amounts of voltage would induce different effects.

1845: Faraday observes that light propagation could be influenced by external magnetic fields.

1848: Albert, the Prince Consort lobbied to allow Faraday a grace and favour house in Hampton Court, free from all expenses. He is given the Master Mason’s House, later renamed Faraday House, at Number 37 Hampton Court Road.

1850: Despite much experimenting he fails in his attempts to find a link between gravity and electromagnetism.

Statue of Faraday at the RI
Statue of Michael Faraday inside the main entrance 
of the Royal Institution in London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1851: He works on the planning for the Great Exhibition.

1853: Faraday refuses to assist the Government on designing chemical weapons for use in the Crimean War due to ethical reasons.

1855: He writes a letter to the Times Newspaper about the foul conditions of the River Thames which became satirised in Punch Magazine.

1858: He retires to live in Faraday House, Hampton Court.

1862: Faraday gives evidence to the Public Schools Commission on education in Great Britain. He spends the latter years of his life studying light and spectral change.

When and Where did he Die?

25th August 1867, Hampton Court, Near London, England. This was recorded as “of natural causes”.

Age at Death:

76.

Marriage:

12 June 1821 to Sarah Barnard.

Site of Grave:

Highgate “Old” Cemetery, London, England. Memorial Plaque in Westminster Abbey near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton.

Places of Interest:

LONDON:

Royal Institution of Great Britain, 21 Albermarle Street, W1X 4BS. (holds his laboratory and a museum).
There is a statue of Faraday at Savoy Place, outside the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

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