Faraday, Michael

SUBJECT AREA: Electricity
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b. 22 September 1791 Newington, Surrey, England
d. 25 August 1867 London, England
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English physicist, discoverer of the principles of the electric motor and dynamo.
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Faraday's father was a blacksmith recently moved south from Westmorland. The young Faraday's formal education was limited to attendance at "a Common Day School", and then he worked as an errand boy for George Riebau, a bookseller and bookbinder in London's West End. Riebau subsequently took him as an apprentice bookbinder, and Faraday seized every opportunity to read the books that came his way, especially scientific works.
A customer in the shop gave Faraday tickets to hear Sir Humphry Davy lecturing at the Royal Institution. He made notes of the lectures, bound them and sent them to Davy, asking for scientific employment. When a vacancy arose for a laboratory assistant at the Royal Institution, Davy remembered Faraday, who he took as his assistant on an 18- month tour of France, Italy and Switzerland (despite the fact that Britain and France were at war!). The tour, and especially Davy's constant company and readiness to explain matters, was a scientific education for Faraday, who returned to the Royal Institution as a competent chemist in his own right. Faraday was interested in electricity, which was then viewed as a branch of chemistry. After Oersted's announcement in 1820 that an electric current could affect a magnet, Faraday devised an arrangement in 1821 for producing continuous motion from an electric current and a magnet. This was the basis of the electric motor. Ten years later, after much thought and experiment, he achieved the converse of Oersted's effect, the production of an electric current from a magnet. This was magneto-electric induction, the basis of the electric generator.
Electrical engineers usually regard Faraday as the "father" of their profession, but Faraday himself was not primarily interested in the practical applications of his discoveries. His driving motivation was to understand the forces of nature, such as electricity and magnetism, and the relationship between them. Faraday delighted in telling others about science, and studied what made a good scientific lecturer. At the Royal Institution he introduced the Friday Evening Discourses and also the Christmas Lectures for Young People, now televised in the UK every Christmas.
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Bibliography
1991, Curiosity Perfectly Satisfyed. Faraday's Travels in Europe 1813–1815, ed. B.Bowers and L.Symons, Peter Peregrinus (Faraday's diary of his travels with Humphry Davy).
Further Reading
L.Pearce Williams, 1965, Michael Faraday. A Biography, London: Chapman \& Hall; 1987, New York: Da Capo Press (the most comprehensive of the many biographies of Faraday and accounts of his work).
For recent short accounts of his life see: B.Bowers, 1991, Michael Faraday and the Modern World, EPA Press. G.Cantor, D.Gooding and F.James, 1991, Faraday, Macmillan.
J.Meurig Thomas, 1991, Michael Faraday and the Royal Institution, Adam Hilger.
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Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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