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Faraday

Faraday, Michael, F.R.S., the son of a Yorkshire blacksmith, was born at Newington, Surrey, in 1791. His early education was of the slightest, and he was a bookbinder's apprentice at the age of 20, when by chance he attended a course of Sir Humphry Davy's lectures at the Royal Institution. He took notes of what he heard and sent them to Davy, who at once engaged him as assistant. However, a kind of jealousy appears to have prevented the master from cordially helping on his able young protege, and it was owing to his own exertions that Faraday in 1825 was made director of the laboratory, and in 1827 Fullerian Professor at the Institution, with which he was connected for more than half a century. As a chemist he is credited with many important discoveries, all of a more or less practical nature, such as the alloys of steel, the composition of glass for optical purposes, the compounds of chlorine and hydrogen with carbon, and of sulphuric acid with naphthaline.

From 1830 he concentrated his energies chiefly on magnetic and electrical phenomena, and his discovery that an electrical current is producible from the revolution of a magnet has been fraught with marvellous influence on material progress. His researches covered the whole field of electromagnetism, and were full of suggestions worked out by later inquirers, the general tendency of his speculations pointing to the now established doctrine of the correlation of the physical forces.

Faraday excelled also in the art of popularising science by the use of simple and clear language illustrated by striking experiments. Much of his work is recorded in the Philosophical Transactions and in scientific journals, but he produced three important treatises - viz. Experimental Researches in Electricity, Fundamental Researches in Chemistry and Physics, and On the Various Forces in Nature. In his private life he was singularly modest and happy. He scorned money-making, and was content with his small salary, to which a. Civil List pension of 300 was added in 1835. A grant of rooms in Hampton Court Palace provided him with a home in his old age. Though married, he had no children. His religious views were somewhat eccentric, for he attached himself to the small sect of Sandemanians, to whom he preached every Sunday. Honours of all kinds were bestowed upon him by learned bodies at home and abroad, but he rather avoided than sought any personal distinction. Working up to the last, he died in 1867.