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Michael Faraday

1791 - 1867

Michael Faraday, 1791 - 1867, english physicist and chemist

Michael Faraday, 1791 - 1867, was an English physicist whose work effectively created the field of electromagnetism.

  • Nationality
  • English

  • Subject
  • Physics

  • Fields
  • Chemistry, electromagnetism, electrochemistry

  • Distinctions
  • Copley Medal, 1832 and 1838

    Royal Medal, 1835 and 1846

    Rumford Medal, 1846

    Albert Medal, 1866

    The SI unit of capacitance, farad, bears his name.

    Honorary degree as a Doctor of Civil Law by the University of Oxford, 1832.

    He was also offered a knighthood, but refused the honour on religious grounds.

    He was offered the presidency of the Royal Society on two occasions, also an honour he turned down.

    Foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1838), the French Academy of Sciences (1844), and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

  • Posts
  • First Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution of Great Britain.

  • Laws
  • Faraday's Law of Induction

    Faraday's Laws of Electrolysis

  • Theories
  • Physics

    Faraday's work provided a field theory description and partial explanation for the discoveries of the electric and magnetic field by Oersted, which effectively established the field of electromagnetism.

    The relationship between light and magnetism, which laid the groundwork for Maxwell's mathematical description of light as an electromagnetic way.

    Electrochemistry

    Faraday Effect

    Faraday Cup

    Faraday Paradox

    Faraday-efficiency Effect

    Faraday Wave

    Lines of force

    Chemistry

    Popularised terms such as anode, cathode, electrode, ion, and developed a system of oxidation numbers.

  • Equations
  • Faraday Constant

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Electromagnetic induction. Faraday discovered the concept of the electromagnetic field.

    Faraday Cage

    Diamagnetism

    The relationship between light and magnetism, which laid the groundwork for Maxwell's mathematical description of light as an electromagnetic way.

    Electrolysis

    Faraday rotator

    Faraday wheel

    Invention of electromagnetic rotary devices, which were the foundation of electric motor technology

    Chemistry: discovery of benzene, clathrate hydrate of chlorine, invention of a form of the Bunsen burner, a system of oxidation numbers.

Born in London to a poor family, Faraday had little schooling, and had to educate himself. In his mid-teens he was a bookbinder's apprentice, which allowed him access to a rich variety of books. One of his favourite books was Jane Marcet's Conversations on Chemistry.

Faraday-Oersted experiment
Faraday-Oersted experiment which revealed the presence of a magnetic field around an electric wire

Faraday was influenced by attending lectures by Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution. After injuring his eyesight in an experiment in 1813, Davy employed Faraday as an assistant, and then recommended him for the post of Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution. Davy also took Faraday with him as his assistant and valet on a trip to Europe, which brought him into contact with a broader scientific community.

Faraday cage
Faraday cage demonstration

Faraday proved to be an extraordinarily capable experimentalist. His groundbreaking discoveries allowed James Maxwell by the 1860s to formulate the mathematical equations which gave us the modern understanding of electromagnetic radiation.

Physicists
A photograph of Michael Faraday, Thomas Henry Huxley, Charles Wheatstone, David Brewster and John Tyndall

In 1832 he was awarded an honorary degree as a Doctor of Civil Law by the University of Oxford. He was also offered a knighthood, but refused the honour on religious grounds. He refused to aid the British Government in their production of chemical weapons for the Crimean War. He also turned down an offer of burial in Westminster Abbey, a very rare honour, but there is a memorial plague there, close to Newton's tomb.

Faraday's magnetic rotation experiment
Faraday's magnetic rotation experiment

Faraday's impact on science is hard to exaggerate. There is an anecdote that his was one of three portraits of scientists which Einstein kept on his wall, along with Maxwell and Newton. Ernest Rutherford wrote of Faraday: "When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and of industry, there is no honour too great to pay to the memory of Faraday, one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time".






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