From bookbinder to one of history’s greatest scientists, Michael Faraday certainly has one interesting story to tell.
Born on September 22, 1791 in London, England, Michael Faraday was the third child of James, a sickly blacksmith, and Margaret Faraday, a servant. The Faradays lacked finances, so after young Michael earned his basic education at the age of 13, he began working as a delivery boy for a bookshop. The next year, he was promoted to apprentice bookbinder.
As his daily routine consisted of binding the shop’s books, Faraday was fascinated by the books and would read every book he bound in his free time. Eventually, he had amassed a considerable amount of knowledge of science, particularly in physics and chemistry.
His career began when he attended one of Sir Humphry Davy’s lecture. Davy, a world-known scientist, was lecturing about acidity, and Faraday took over 300 pages of notes. When he returned home, he bound the notes into a book, which sent them to Davy. The notes impressed Davy, who hired Faraday as a chemical assistant.
Faraday began working with Davy at the Royal Institution, eventually becoming a professor of chemistry himself. Though Faraday insisted he was a philosopher, rather than a physicist, his discoveries have advanced both chemistry and physics. In 1821, Faraday discovered electromagnetic rotation, which would eventually develop into the electric motor. In 1825, he discovered benzene, a highly important substance that furthered chemical understanding.
Perhaps his most important discovery, though, was electromagnetic induction, that a varying magnetic field caused electricity to flow in an electric circuit. This discovery provided the basis for the field of electrochemistry, and was an important discovery not only for science, but for technology, allowing it to progress and grow into what it is today.
At the age of 75, Michael Faraday passed away in London on August 25, 1867. His grave, where his wife Sarah is also buried, can still be seen in London’s Highgate Cemetery. How fitting that Albert Einstein used to keep photos of three scientists in his office: Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Michael Faraday.
<Michael Faraday> – Famous Scientists