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Michael Faraday

Photo of Michael Faraday

Michael Farady, son of a blacksmith, was born in London in 1791. He was apprenticed to a bookbinder and this contact with books gave him a love of reading. After becoming interested in science, Faraday applied to Humphrey Davy for a job. In 1813 Faraday became his temporary assistant and spent the next 18 months touring Europe while during Davy's investigations into his theory of volcanic action.

Davy gave Faraday a valuable scientific education and also introduced him to important scientists in Europe. After Humphrey Davy retired in 1827, Faraday replaced him as professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution. Faraday began to publish details of his research including condensation of gases, optical deceptions and the isolation of benzene from gas oils.

Faraday's greatest contribution to science was in the field of electricity. In 1821 he began experimenting with electromagnetism and by demonstrating the conversion of electrical energy into motive force, invented the electric motor. In 1831 Faraday discovered the induction of electric currents and made the first dynamo. In 1837 he demonstrated that electrostatic force consists of a field of curved lines of force, and conceived a specific inductive capacity. This led to Faraday being able to develop his theories on light and gravitational systems.

The government recognised his contribution to science by granting him a pension and giving him a house in Hampton Court. However, Faraday was unwilling to use his scientific knowledge to help military action and in 1853 refused to help develop poison gases to be used in the Crimean War. Michael Faraday died in 1867.

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