Michael Faraday: More Than Just a Scientist

Greenfaol By Greenfaol, 24th May 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/159nybm0/
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Electricity & Magnetism

Michael Faraday changed the way we think of electricity and its possible applications. This biography looks at the man behind the reputation.

Humble Beginnings

Michael Faraday was born on the 22nd of September 1791 to James and Margaret, a Blacksmith and domestic servant respectively. He was the third of four children. His family were part of the Sandemanian Church, a Christian group that are more or less unheard of now.

Coming from such a humble background, his basic education was that of reading, writing and basic maths. It was not surprising or out of the ordinary that Michael was taken on as an errand boy by the age of thirteen. He was errand boy to one George Riebau, a bookseller. A year later, Faraday became an apprentice bookbinder under Mr Riebau, just before the Battle of Trafalgar commenced.

The Influence of George Riebau

As an apprentice, Faraday was given a room above the shop. Riebau himself was a large influence on Faraday. He was a political activist and his shop was patronised by many intellects of the day. As such, Faraday was exposed to a great deal of written material and views. He read books as he bound them. It was here that he came read Conversations in Chemistry by Jane Marcet and Improvement of the Mind by Isaac Watt. He carried out experiments and wrote notes and letters on his work.

Riebau encouraged the young faraday to visit London and observe the marvels of the Industrial Revolution. He encouraged him to attend the lectures that were held weekly at the City Philosophical Society and at the end of his apprenticeship in 1812, Faraday had realised his ambition to live a life of scientific pursuit (although he would have termed it natural philosophy at the time).

Appointment to the Royal Institution

For someone of such humble birth, this was a very difficult route to take. Very few positions were available to anyone, much less those without a university education. The only possible way for someone from low birth to obtain any position within this field was through a patron. Faraday eventually set his sights on Humphrey Davy (1778-1829), Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution in London.

After attending lectures given by Davy, Faraday wrote up very neat notes on them and offered them to Davy. Davy interviewed him and said he would keep him in mind for any future jobs but advised that bookbinding may be a better option.

A few months later (end October 1812), Davy offered Faraday a part time post to read and write for him after a laboratory accident had harmed his eyes. He thereafter obtained a laboratory assistant position at the Institution for Faraday based on his excellent work.

This was to be Michael Faraday’s second apprenticeship, in chemistry. Half a year later, Faraday accompanied Davy and his new wife on a scientific trip through Europe and when he returned to England, he was re-appointed assistant at the Institution under William Brande, Davy’s successor.

From here on, Faraday and the Royal Institution became forever linked in a partnership that greatly benefited both. In 1821 he was appointed Acting Superintendent of the House and his career took off.

Marriage and A favourable Career

That same year he married Sarah Barnard and became a member of the Sandemanian Church, of which his new wife was already a full member. The couple lived in the upper floors of the Royal institution for the majority of their lives. They had no children but were said to be very happy and often had nieces and nephews over for visits.

The church had a large role in Faraday’s life, and he followed his faith under a code of conduct from which he never wavered. He was a deacon by the 1830s and an Elder by the 1840s. His religious life made an impact on his public life, for Faraday had become a very public figure, holding lectures at the Royal Institution – his Friday Evening Discourses. He had become the face of the Royal Institution, making science popular and interesting, and accessible to all.

Indeed, he saw science as a means to reading the ‘book of nature’ that was the world in which he lived.

To Conclude

He became known as a man of honour and principle and it was through his faith that he lived his life as a servant to the Institute rather than as a leader of it. As such, he turned down the role of President of the Institute in 1864. He continued to work for the Institute until his death on 25th August 1867.

While Faraday will forever be remembered as the man to create the term and indeed understand the ‘electromagnetic field’, and as the creator of the Faraday Cage, he is less well known for being a government advisor and a private man. He was a deeply religious man who firmly believed in science as a means of benefiting society and in self improvement and was very much a hero of the people.

For a list of his life and scientific career, please see the Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Faraday

If you enjoyed this article, why not have a look at this article, on Robert Louis Stevenson


Michael Faraday: Sandemanian and Scientist by G. N. Cantor

The Correspondence of Michael Faraday by F. A. J. L. James


Book Binder, Chemistry, Christianity, Electromagnetic Field, Electromagnetics, Electromagnetism, Faraday Cage, Friday Evening Discourse, Gentleman, George Riebau, London, Michael Farady, Physics, Religion, Royal Institution, Sandemanian Church, Scoence, The Royal Institution Of London, Victorian

Meet the author

author avatar Greenfaol
I write a variety of things, from health to cooking, to spiritual, to everyday living. Writing is a passion, and I am trying to become a professional.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
25th May 2011 (#)

gotta say I am familiar with the name because it was used as a character from a GREAT television show, LOST.

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author avatar deepa venkitesh
25th May 2011 (#)

great article.

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author avatar Delicia Powers
25th May 2011 (#)

Thanks Greenfaol, I love history, and there is such beauty in discovering the personal side of people who have made a mark on the past and in so doing our lives today- great article thank you!

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author avatar Carol
25th May 2011 (#)

You have researched this very well Norma, and written it with great clarity. I learn something new every day. Thanks so much x

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author avatar Greenfaol
25th May 2011 (#)

Thanks guys :D Mark - really? I missed most of Lost and don't remember any of the characters names Im afraid but that's kinda cool that they named a character after him :D

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author avatar Songbird B
26th May 2011 (#)

What a great article, Greenfaol, I am shocked that this didn't receive a Star Page award, as it certainly deserved it! A fascinating insight...A great share..

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author avatar Greenfaol
26th May 2011 (#)

Thanks Songbird, that's really kind of youto say :D

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
30th May 2011 (#)

Excellent, well-researched and presented article. I agree with Songbird that this should have been a star page.

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author avatar Greenfaol
30th May 2011 (#)

Thanks very much for that, Steve :D

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author avatar Humza
9th Aug 2011 (#)

interesting read
thnx green for that!
Faraday was lucky to have met such ppl who didnt take unfair advatage of his knowledge and talent and did efforts to make him a man that he is today and to earn height of success
and most of the credit goes to George Riebau!
thanx alot for sharing :)
we direly need alot of faradays today as well, who sincerely think just about benefiting the society through science rather than destroying and creating and inventing stuff of destruction to earn handful of royalties

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