Faraday, Michael

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Faraday, Michael

Michael Faraday (fâr´ədē, –dā´), 1791–1867, English scientist. The son of a blacksmith, he was apprenticed to a bookbinder at the age of 14. He had little formal education, but acquired a store of scientific knowledge through reading and by attending educational lectures including, in 1812, one by Sir Humphry Davy. The following year he became Davy's assistant at the Royal Institution in London. Faraday was made a member of the institution in 1823 and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1824. In 1825 he became director of the laboratory, and from 1833 he was Fullerian professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution. He subsequently declined knighthood and the presidency of the Royal Society.

Faraday's experiments yielded some of the most significant principles and inventions in scientific history. He developed the first dynamo (in the form of a copper disk rotated between the poles of a permanent magnet), the precursor of modern dynamos and generators. From his discovery of electromagnetic induction (1831; also independently discovered by the American Joseph Henry) stemmed a vast development of electrical machinery for industry. In 1825 he discovered the compound benzene. In addition to other contributions he did research on electrolysis, formulating Faraday's law. He also laid the foundations of the classical electromagnetic field theory, later fully developed by J. C. Maxwell. Some of his works were collected as Experimental Researches in Electricity (3 vol., 1839–55) and Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics (1859).

See his diary (ed. by T. Martin, 7 vol., 1932–36); his correspondence (ed. by L. P. Williams, 2 vol., 1971); biographies by T. Martin (1934), L. P. Williams (1965), G. Cantor (1991), and J. Hamilton (2005); study by D. Gooding and F. A. James, ed. (1986).

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