MAX’S POST: MICHAEL FARADAY

 

In our journey we’ve met several scientists as you’ll discover by reading BOOK ONE, but there are also many that we haven’t got the chance to meet – yet.

One of them is definitely Michael Faraday, born 1791 in Surrey of South London. He was born poor, much like me and my sister Phoebe. He wasn’t an orphan though. He was the third child in a family of four children. His father was a blacksmith. Being a child of a low class family he received minimal education, and started working at the age of 14 as a bookbinder assistant, for 7 years.

But, binding was not the only thing he did with the books. He started reading as many scientific books as he could. This way he got acquainted with the developments on Physics and Chemistry at that time. Some said that he had read the entire Britannica encyclopedia. At the same time he started making experiments using old vials and wood. He created a makeshift electrostatic generator as well as a voltaic pile with which he continued with chemistry experiments. His mission was to validate all the theories he was reading through his experiments.

One day Faraday was lucky enough to be offered tickets for a lecture by one of the most famous scientists of the world at the time: Sir Humphry Davy. Faraday attended four lectures about Chemistry’s current problem: definition of acidity.
“That’s the world one would want to live in” he said as he slowly discovered science.
He kept notes of more than 300 pages which he bound in a beautiful book and sent it to Sir Davy as a compliment.

At that time Faraday conducted more advanced experiments at the back of the book shop. He constructed an electrical pile (a battery) using copper coins and zinc discs separated by paper soaked in salty water. He used his battery in order to decompose chemical substances like magnesium sulfate. In this chemistry area Humphry Davy was a pioneer.

In 1812, and while Faraday was working as a bookbinder in another shop, Sir Humphry Davy’s accident gave Faraday a rare opportunity. Sir Davy temporarily lost his sight because of an explosion that went wrong, so, he asked Faraday to work as his assistant, transcribing whatever Davy dictated, since he was unable to write himself. That led to Faraday being hired as an assistant at the Royal Institute of London. Ironically Faraday worked on the preparation of the same experiment that led to Davy’s injury, using nitrogen trichloride, a very unstable substance, which led to another explosion that injured both.

Later on, Faraday was lucky to accompany Davy and his wife in Europe for 18 months. He had the chance to meet many famous and important scientists and get acquainted with their discoveries. But Faraday was a low class assistant, and he suffered Davy’s wife humiliations during most of the trip. He was treated as a servant.

Michael Faraday was a staunch Sandemanian, a non-conformist sect of Protestantism. He got married to Sarah Bernard in 1821 but they bore no children.

From the age of 33, in 1824 his work started getting some recognition. His scientific work is enormous and really important. It is not by chance that Albert Einstein always had three portraits in his office: Isaac Newton’s, James Clerk Maxwell’s and Michael Faraday’s. We the Time Squatters’ team got to know only Newton – yet, but more about that in our adventures: The Secret of the Cosmographer.

In 1821 the Danish physicist Hans Christian Ӧrsted discovered by accident Electromagnetism. The news traveled to England and Faraday delved into this. Until that time Electricity and Magnetic fields were not considered interconnected. Faraday in order to connect the two forces introduced the notion of ‘field’. Field is a space where a charged particle can ‘feel the effect’ of a force. Electric current is basically electrically charged particles that move, and while they move they apply a force on magnet, a compass needle for example. The orientation of the needle within the field made Faraday think of some imaginary lines, the lines of the electromagnetic field.

His main question though was whether this could work the other way round. In other words, if electricity could produce magnetic effects, could a magnet produce an electric current? He spent more than 10 years of his research but the discovery was colossal. For hundreds of years the electricity produced using Faraday’s discovery is much more than all the electricity produced by all other methods together. – This is only in your time though. In Virtus things are a bit different, and we managed to produce electricity out of many sources, but we still use Faraday laws. This method is called Induction.

When Faraday was asked by England’s Prime-Minister, Earl Grey what was the use of his discovery, he answered: “I am not sure of its use. I am certain though, that one day you will place a tax on it”.

Michael Faraday retired to his home in Hampton Court in 1858. He died at 75 in 1867. He was buried in the section of dissenters in the High gate cemetery in London. He had refused to be buried in Westminster Abbey although there lays a memorial plaque dedicated to him near Isaac Newton‘s tomb.

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