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Michael Faraday

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Michael Faraday was an English physicist and scientist born in Newington Surrey, South London in 1791. Michael’s father, James Faraday, was a blacksmith with not a steady means of subsistence to keep the family’s finances going. The family often had limited resources to go by, which also meant that Faraday along with his siblings wasn’t afforded a decent chance at education.

Faraday attended the local church school until he was 13, which educated him in basic reading and writing and subsequently at the age of 14 started working as a delivery boy for a bookstore, where he delivered newspapers. Within a year of his service at the bookstore, Faraday was promoted to an apprentice bookbinder. During his apprenticeship, which lasted seven years, Faraday seized the opportunity to read as much as he could. Most of his worldly education was acquired through the books he read. Faraday acquainted himself with science and developed a key interest in electricity. Two books in particular that captured Faraday’s interest were The Encyclopedia Britannica and Conversations on Chemistry by Jane Marcet.

Faraday’s interest in science was kindled to an extent where he started creating models and experimenting with the truths he read in the books on science. Faraday’s interest has grown enough to motivate him to attend the lectures of well-known scientist John Tatum on physics – then know as natural philosophy. In 1812, Faraday further attended a lecture series delivered by the chemist Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution. Davy’s lectures left Faraday spellbound with double the motivation than he previously housed to enter the world of science. Faraday had meticulously recorded each of Davy’s lectures complemented with his personal notes, which he bound together with a letter addressed to Davy, seeking employment. Later than sooner, Davy, impressed with Faraday’s work, offered him a chemical assistant’s position at the Royal Institution in 1813. Faraday’s first assignment as a chemical assistant was to work with nitrogen trichloride, which was eventually halted due to the volatile nature of the chemical.

Within the first six months of his apprenticeship, Faraday accompanied Davy on one of his European expeditions, which afforded Faraday the opportunity to visit France, Switzerland, Italy, and Belgium. Faraday met various renowned scientists and acquainted himself with their work. 1816 marked the year when Faraday delivered his first lecture and published his first paper on calcium hydroxide in the Quarterly Journal of Science. Under Davy’s apprenticeship, Faraday had become well versed in chemical analyses and laboratory techniques and became a well-known chemist.

In 1821, Faraday published his work on electromagnetic rotation and through the 1820s managed to deliver many lectures and establish a reputation for him in the scientific world, which eventually led him to be elected to the Royal Society, a well-served regard for Faraday as an independent scientist.  In 1825, Faraday was appointed to replace the ailing Davy as director of the laboratories at the Royal Institution. In 1831, Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction, the principle behind the electric transformer and generator. In 1833 Faraday was honored with the Fullerian Professorship of Chemistry—a position he held for the rest of his life.

While working on a task for the Royal Society of London to improve the quality of optical glass for telescopes, he came up with a highly improved quality of glass which led to the discovery of diamagnetism, a force opposes the direction of an applied magnetic field.

Michael Faraday has also been credited with the discovery of Benzene, which was a happenstance when he was heating and illuminating oils in order to produce gas for lighting London. Faraday also achieved the rare feat of liquefying various gases, including chlorine and carbon dioxide.

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