World’s Super Scientists – Michael Faraday

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Far-a-day with electricity, a city which is not a dwelling place – Michael Faraday

Scientist Michael Faraday (1791 to 1867), the ‘father of the electric motor and the electric generator’, English physicist and chemist did pioneering experiments in electricity and magnetism.

At the age of 14 he was forced to accept a job as bookseller and book-binder when the lad became a self-educated, self-tutored devotee of science.

In 1810 attended a course in natural philosophy.

At the age of 21 he conducted experiments on chemical and electrochemical lines; he made a Voltaic pile and decomposed compounds with electricity. He took notes from lectures of Sir Humphry Davy, whom he impressed greatly.

Scientist Michael Faraday accompanied Davy in his continental scientific tour, assisting him in lectures and demonstrations in 1813-1815.

  • In 1821 Faraday devised a primitive model of an electric-motor.
  • 1821 he married Sarah Bernard.
  • 1822: a terse style entry in his diary – “Convert magnetism into Electricity.” How? [subsequently he proved].
  • 1823 liquefied chlorine.
  • 1825 isolated benzene.
  • 1831 He was able to show to the world how to “convert magnetism into electricity”. Faraday’s law of induction: Quantitative expression of electromagnetic activity – this idea gave birth to dynamo, generator.

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Scientist Michael Faraday Principle of electric induction

Electricity could produce magnetism. Could magnetism produce electricity? How? (see Ampere, also).

Scientist Michael Faraday’s experiment : Copper wire 220 feet long was wound on a cardboard cylinder, insulating twine and calico cloth in between the turns. A bar magnet was thrust into the cylinder – galvanometer showed presence of current, shift of the needle.

When the magnet was pulled out, the needle turned to the opposite direction, i.e., stationary position.

Next he moved the coil keeping the magnet still -again success.

So relative motion between the coil (conduction) and magnet would convert magnetism into electricity.

One anecdote in Scientist Michael Faraday’s life :

Scientist Michael Faraday demonstrated his above experiment on electromagnetic induction before a huge audience. A lady with a young baby was one of the spectators.

The lady became angry. She said, “Is this an experiment? Have you called people to befool them?” Faraday replied politely, “Madam, just as your child is quite young, so is the case with my experiment. So far, it is like a baby. In future, it may be of utmost importance.”

Scientist Michael Faraday’s Laws of Electrolysis

i) Electricity could break down (lyse) water into hydrogen and oxygen.
ii) Electricity decomposed potassium hydroxide (the chemical name for caustic potash). Thus potassium was discovered. The technical terms used in electrolysis, viz., electrode, anode, cathode, electrolyte, ions were coined by Faraday.

Many metals were commercially prepared by the technique of electrolysis.

Scientist Michael Faraday showed that magnetic field will rotate the plane of polarization (vibration) of light – Faraday effect; this occurs in many solids, liquids and gases.
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Scientist Michael Faraday studied dielectrics (non-conducting materials of electricity).

Lines of magnetic force as described by him – a catch word in modern physics.

According to Scientist Michael Faraday, electricity is one of the manifestations in the forces of Nature which included heat, light, magnetism and chemical affinity.

Sir Humphry Davy said in appreciation of Faraday’s talents, “The greatest of my discoveries is Faraday.”


Electricity :  Hidden energy made unhidden, i.e. apparent (visible).