Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century.
Faraday was the son of a poor blacksmith, born in the village of Newington in Surrey, England.
He started work as an apprentice bookbinder but became an assistant to the great scientist Humphry Davy after taking brilliant notes at one of Davy’s lectures.
Faraday was said to be Davy’s greatest discovery.
Until 1830 Faraday was mainly a chemist. In 1825 he discovered the important chemical benzene.
Faraday drew huge crowds to his brilliant and entertaining Christmas lectures on science at the Royal Institution in London. The Royal Institution Christmas lectures continue to be a popular tradition today.
In 1821 Faraday showed that the magnetism created by an electric current would make a magnet move and so made a very simple version of an electric motor.
In 1831 Faraday showed that when a magnet moves close to an electric wire, it creates, or induces, an electric current in the wire. This was discovered at the same time by Joseph Henry in the USA.
Using his discovery of electric induction, Faraday made the first dynamo to generate electricity and so opened the way to the modern age of electricity.
In the 1840s Faraday suggested the idea of lines of magnetic force and electromagnetic fields. These ideas, which were later developed by James Clerk Maxwell, underpin much of modern science.
Faraday was probably the greatest scientific experimenter of all time.
Faraday’s disc generator. An electromotive force (emf) is produced in a copper disc when it is spun in the magnetic field.