Michael Faraday Esq (print; engraving; portrait)

Michael Faraday : A Quick Overview of His Life and Inventions

Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday was born on September 22, 1791, in Newington Butts, London, England. He was the son of a blacksmith and a weaver. Faraday received very little formal education. At the age of 14, he became an apprentice bookbinder. He then became a chemist’s assistant.

In 1812, Faraday attended a series of lectures given by the chemist Humphry Davy. Davy was so impressed with Faraday’s abilities that he offered him a job. Faraday worked with Davy for the next nine years. He became a very skilled chemist.

In 1821, Faraday became interested in electricity. He began to do experiments on electricity and magnetism. Faraday made many important discoveries in this area. In 1831, he invented the electric transformer. This invention made it possible to transmit electricity over long distances. Faraday also invented the electric generator.

In 1835, Faraday became the director of the Royal Institution in London. He held this position until his retirement in 1858. Faraday was a very talented scientist. He made many important discoveries in the fields of electricity and magnetism. Faraday’s work helped to make electricity into a viable form of energy.

Michael Faraday’s Apprenticeship with Humphry Davy

Michael Faraday was born in1791 in England. He was orphaned at a young age and was raised by his grandparents. When he was 14, he began an apprenticeship with a bookbinder. A few years later, he began an apprenticeship with Sir Humphry Davy, a famous chemist. Faraday was Davy’s lab assistant for seven years. During this time, he helped Davy perform many experiments, including experiments on gases and electricity. Faraday also learned how to write scientific papers. In 1821, Faraday became a professor at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. He continued to work at the Royal Institution for the rest of his life. Faraday is best known for his work on the electric motor and the electric generator.

Michael Faraday’s Contribution at the Royal Institution

He was a physicist and chemist who worked at the Royal Institution in London. Faraday is most famous for his work on electromagnetism. He discovered that an electric current can create a magnetic field, and that a magnetic field can create an electric current. This work formed the basis for the development of electric motors and generators. Faraday also did pioneering work on the study of electrolysis, the process of breaking down a compound into its individual atoms or molecules using an electric current.

This brings us to England and men named Michael Faraday and his mentor Humphry Davy.  Humphry Davy was a famous Chemist and laughing gas aficionado who was arguably the most famous scientist in all of Europe at the time.  Eight years previously, Davy had injured his eye and hired Michael Faraday, a young, uneducated, and poor bookbinder’s apprentice as his assistant.  By 1820, Davy was promoted to president of the Royal Institution of London and Faraday had been promoted to the position of “Chemical Assistant” and was conducting some of his research independently of Davy.

Both Davy and Faraday (and frankly, every other scientist in Europe) heard about Oersted’s experiment and tried to figure out what it meant.  Davy wrote his brother, “I have ascertained (repeating some vague experiments of Orsted’s) that the battery is a powerful magnet…I am deeply occupied in this.”  Notice that Davy got an important fact wrong about Orsted’s experiment.  The battery is not a magnet!  It is tempting to think it must be as it often is in a similar shape to a bar magnet and the + and – signs seem so similar to the N and S of a magnet. In fact, the battery isn’t magnetic, but the current in the wire is.  In April, Davy collaborated with his friend William Wollaston on this problem.  Wollaston had agreed with Oersted that the current must spiral down the wire.  They spent many hours trying to come up with an experiment to demonstrate this spiraling motion but to no avail.  Supposedly, Faraday heard some of their discussions but never found them interesting enough to put in his notebook.

In the summer of 1821, Faraday was asked to write a review of the latest developments in electricity for a journal.  Through painstaking experiments, Faraday determined that the wire wasn’t attracting either end of the magnet but instead orienting the entire magnet.  He also determined that the force was purely circular around the wire not spiraling as Oersted thought.  He decided that strange as it may seem, the current seemed to travel straight down the wire and somehow it made a circular force on a magnet around the wire.  In return, Faraday also postulated that a magnet also made a circular force on a wire around it.  In other words,  “a wire ought to revolve around a magnetic pole and a magnetic pole around the wire”.

Faraday began looking for a way to demonstrate that a current-carrying wire will feel a force in a circle around a magnet.  On September 3rd, 1821 he created a simple experiment in his laboratory to demonstrate this force.  He had a wire drop down on a cup full of mercury (mercury is a conducting fluid) with a permanent bar magnet in the center.  When he closed the switch the wire spun continuously.  Supposedly, Faraday shouted, “There they go! There they go! We have succeeded at last!”

Technically, Faraday had just invented the electric motor as an electric motor is a device that changes electrical energy into motion.  Of course, it wasn’t a particularly practical motor as it didn’t do any useful work (unless you want to electrically stir mercury).  Luckily, Faraday didn’t invent the motor to do any work.  He invented it to demonstrate that the current moves straight down the wire and the magnetic force is circular around the wire.  As a motor, it was useless, as a demonstration of the nature of magnetic fields, it was quite efficient.

Faraday published his work on October 1st, 1821 to great acclaim.  But within a week, he heard rumors that people were saying he plagiarized his material.  The person shouting the loudest was his former boss and mentor, Humphrey Davy!

Faraday wrote to Wollaston, “I am anxious to escape from unfounded impressions against me and if I have done any wrong that I may apologize for it.”  Wollaston wrote back and claimed to be unoffended; “you have no occasion to concern yourself much about the matter.”  However, Wollaston didn’t publically defend Faraday and Davy publically attacked him.

It is hard to know, almost 200 years after the fact, why people did what they did and how they felt about it.  Most modern researchers feel that Davy was jealous of his protégée’s success and felt that Faraday was too low class and uneducated to be an independent researcher.  Davy was from a middle-class background but had been knighted as a baron in recognition of his scientific work.  Therefore Davy might have been class conscious in a way that a person who has risen far from middle-class beginnings could be.  However, it is also possible that Davy felt justified in his anger.  Faraday was a person that Davy had plucked from obscurity and he did not give credit to his benefactor.  And it is true that Davy and Wollaston had been trying to make a spinning device before Faraday did (although with a different motivation).  Finally, it isn’t clear that Davy really understood what Faraday was proving with his experiments.  Davy’s brother stated that his objections to Faraday were “an act of justice to Dr. Wollaston”, and it is quite possible that Davy felt that way for the rest of his life.

In May of 1823, Faraday was nominated to be a fellow of the Royal Institute to the strong objection of Davy (the secret vote was nearly unanimous with only one dissenter, probably Davy).  In 1826, Davy fell very ill from using too much laughing gas or from inhaling dangerous chemicals in the laboratory and resigned from his job as a Chemist.  Davy passed away three years later.

Meanwhile, Faraday was eager to continue his studies of electricity but instead, he was basically forced by the government to study how to make better optical glasses (a study that he found particularly fruitless, stating that the only results were his own “nervous headaches”).  Therefore, Faraday was unable to return to electricity until 1831. The first person to really take Faraday’s idea to the next level was a newly retired soldier and boot maker named William Sturgeon.  Sturgeon actually invented one of the first practical motors in 1834.  First, however, he focused on another thing Faraday mentioned in his paper, that a helix of wire acts like a bar magnet.  How Sturgeon invented the first practical electromagnet is next time on the secret history of electricity.


Michael Faraday’s Discovery and Inventions

Michael Faraday’s Theory of Electrochemistry

While Faraday was performing these experiments and presenting them to the scientific world, doubts were raised about the identity of the different manifestations of electricity that had been studied. Were the electric “fluid” that apparently was released by electric eels and other electric fishes, that produced by a static electricity generator, that of the voltaic battery, and that of the new electromagnetic generator all the same? Or were they different fluids following different laws?

Faraday was convinced that they were not fluids at all but forms of the same force, yet he recognized that this identity had never been satisfactorily shown by experiment. For this reason he began, in 1832, what promised to be a rather tedious attempt to prove that all electricities had precisely the same properties and caused precisely the same effects. The key effect was electrochemical decomposition. Voltaic and electromagnetic electricity posed no problems, but static electricity did. As Faraday delved deeper into the problem, he made two startling discoveries.

First, electrical force did not, as had long been supposed, act at a distance upon chemical molecules to cause them to dissociate. It was the passage of electricity through a conducting liquid medium that caused the molecules to dissociate, even when the electricity merely discharged into the air and did not pass into a “pole” or “centre of action” in a voltaic cell. Second, the amount of the decomposition was found to be related in a simple manner to the amount of electricity that passed through the solution. These findings led Faraday to a new theory of electrochemistry. The electric force, he argued, threw the molecules of a solution into a state of tension (his electrotonic state). When the force was strong enough to distort the fields of forces that held the molecules together so as to permit the interaction of these fields with neighbouring particles, the tension was relieved by the migration of particles along the lines of tension, the different species of atoms migrating in opposite directions. The amount of electricity that passed, then, was clearly related to the chemical affinities of the substances in solution. These experiments led directly to Faraday’s two laws of electrochemistry: (1) The amount of a substance deposited on each electrode of an electrolytic cell is directly proportional to the quantity of electricity passed through the cell. (2) The quantities of different elements deposited by a given amount of electricity are in the ratio of their chemical equivalent weights.

Faraday’s work on electrochemistry provided him with an essential clue for the investigation of static electrical induction. Since the amount of electricity passed through the conducting medium of an electrolytic cell determined the amount of material deposited at the electrodes, why should not the amount of electricity induced in a nonconductor be dependent upon the material out of which it was made? In short, why should not every material have a specific inductive capacity? Every material does, and Faraday was the discoverer of this fact.

By 1839 Faraday was able to bring forth a new and general theory of electrical action. Electricity, whatever it was, caused tensions to be created in matter.

When these tensions were rapidly relieved (i.e., when bodies could not take much strain before “snapping” back), then what occurred was a rapid repetition of a cyclical buildup, breakdown, and buildup of tension that, like a wave, was passed along a substance.

Such substances were called conductors. In electrochemical processes the rate of buildup and breakdown of the strain was proportional to the chemical affinities of the substances involved, but again the current was not a material flow but a wave pattern of tensions and their relief.

Insulators were simply materials whose particles could take an extraordinary amount of strain before they snapped. Electrostatic charge in an isolated insulator was simply a measure of this accumulated strain. Thus, all electrical action was the result of forced strains in bodies.

The strain on Faraday of eight years of sustained experimental and theoretical work was too much, and in 1839 his health broke down. For the next six years he did little creative science. Not until 1845 was he able to pick up the thread of his researches and extend his theoretical views.

Williams, L. Pearce. “Michael Faraday”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 Sep. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Michael-Faraday. Accessed 3 June 2022.


Faraday’s Electromagnetic Wave Experiment

In 1831, Michael Faraday, performed an experiment that showed the relationship between electricity and magnetism. This experiment is known as Faraday’s electromagnetic wave experiment.

To perform this experiment, Faraday positioned a wire above a permanent magnet. He then connected the wire to a battery, which created an electric current. The electric current flowing through the wire created a magnetic field around the wire. This magnetic field interacted with the magnetic field of the permanent magnet, causing the wire to move.

Faraday’s electromagnetic wave experiment demonstrated that electricity and magnetism are two aspects of the same force. This force is now known as electromagnetism. Faraday’s experiment also showed that electromagnetic waves can travel through space. These waves are now known as electromagnetic radiation.


Michael Faraday Discovery of Electromagnetic Rotation

one of his most significant was the discovery of electromagnetic rotation. This discovery has had a profound impact on the way we live today, and is a key component of modern technology.

Faraday’s discovery began with his experiments on electricity and magnetism. He discovered that a current of electricity produces a magnetic field, and that a magnetic field can produce a current of electricity. This led him to wonder if there was a way to convert one form of energy into another.

He began to experiment with rotating magnets, and discovered that they produced a current of electricity. This was the first time that anyone had ever demonstrated the conversion of mechanical energy into electrical energy. Faraday’s discovery of electromagnetic rotation was a major breakthrough, and it laid the foundation for the development of modern technology.


Michael Faraday Discovery in Gas Liquefaction and Refrigeration

In 1824, Michael Faraday began experimenting with the liquefaction of gases. He was the first to liquefy chlorine, and later oxygen and nitrogen. In 1834, Faraday liquefied ammonia, which he used to produce ice for the first time. In 1845, Faraday liquefied carbon dioxide, which he used to produce dry ice.


How Did Michael Faraday Discovered Benzene?

Benzene is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H6. It is a colorless and flammable liquid with a sweet odor. Benzene is mainly used as an additive in gasoline.

Michael Faraday is credited with the discovery of benzene. He is also known for his work on electromagnetism and electrochemistry.

In 1825, Faraday was working on a new way to produce hydrocarbons from coal. He was trying to convert coal into gas, and he noticed that one of the by-products of this process was a colorless and flammable liquid with a sweet odor. Faraday called this liquid benzene, and he was the first person to identify it as a distinct compound.

Benzene is a hydrocarbon, meaning that it contains only hydrogen and carbon atoms. It is made up of six carbon atoms bonded together in a ring. The benzene ring is very stable, and it is resistant to breaking down. This makes benzene a good additive for gasoline, because it helps to prevent the fuel from degrading over time.

Benzene has also been used in the manufacture of plastics, synthetic fibers, and other chemicals. It is a toxic compound, and exposure to high levels of benzene can cause adverse health effects.


Michael Faraday’s Law of Electrolysis

Michael Faraday’s Law of Electrolysis states that the amount of current passing through an electrolyte is proportional to the amount of chemical reaction taking place. This law was discovered by Michael Faraday in 1833.

The law can be expressed mathematically as:

I = kCR

Where I is the current passing through the electrolyte, k is a constant, C is the concentration of the electrolyte, and R is the resistance of the electrolyte.

The law can be used to calculate the amount of current necessary to produce a certain amount of reaction. For example, if you want to produce 1 mole of copper from copper sulfate, you would need a current of 1.118 amperes.


Michael Faraday’s Invention of the Faraday Cage

One of Michael Faraday inventions is the Faraday Cage, which is a metal enclosure that blocks electric fields.

Faraday’s work on electromagnetism began in 1821 when he discovered that a changing magnetic field creates an electric field. Michael Faraday discovered that an electric current creates a magnetic field. These discoveries laid the foundation for electromagnetism.

In 1836, One of Michael Faraday inventions the Faraday Cage. The Faraday Cage is a metal enclosure that blocks electric fields. It is named after Faraday because he invented it. The Faraday Cage is used today in many different applications, including electrical engineering, medical technology, and military technology.


Michael Faraday’s Discovery of the Faraday Effect – a magneto-optical effect

In 1845, Michael Faraday discovered the Faraday effect – a magneto-optical effect. This occurs when a beam of light is passed through a magnetic field. The light is deflected and the direction of the deflection depends on the orientation of the magnetic field.

This discovery was Faraday’s first step towards the development of the electric motor. It showed that a magnetic field can affect the movement of light. Faraday went on to develop a theory of electromagnetism, which explained the interaction between electricity and magnetism. This theory formed the basis for the development of the electric motor and other technologies that rely on electricity and magnetism.

James Clerk Maxwell’s equations in 1864, which established that light is an electromagnetic wave.


Michael Faraday’s Electric Light Bulb

In 1802, English scientist Michael Faraday discovered the principle of electromagnetic induction, which is the basis of the electric generator. This discovery led to the development of the electric motor, and eventually one of the famous faraday inventions the electric light bulb.

In 1808, Faraday built the first electric motor, which was a simple device that converted electrical energy into mechanical energy. In 1810, he built a dynamo, which is a device that converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.

In 1820, Faraday discovered that a wire carrying an electric current can be passed through a magnetic field, and that the magnetic field will cause the current to flow in a circular path. This discovery led to the development of the electric transformer.

In 1831, Faraday developed the first electric light bulb. His light bulb was a simple device that consisted of a glass bulb filled with a gas, a metal filament, and a metal plate. When a current was passed through the filament, it would heat up and emit light.

Although Faraday’s light bulb was not very efficient, it was the first practical electric light bulb. Over the next few years, other scientists developed more efficient light bulbs, and by 1879, the electric light bulb had replaced the gaslight bulb as the standard light source.

Faraday was a brilliant scientist, but he was also a humble man. He never patented his inventions, and he always shared his discoveries with other scientists.

Michael Faraday died aged 75 on August 25, 1867 in London. He was a great scientist and a great human being.

Read More about famous scientists like Alessandro Volta, John Dalton, James Maxwell, and Max Planck here.

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