Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) started in England as an apprentice bookbinder at age 14!  Having seen a series of lectures by Humphry Davy, he became interested in electricity, and approached Davy for a position.  He was appointed Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution in 1813 on the recommendation of Davy.  He started to perform his own research, went on to make major contributions to both physics and chemistry.  In 1825 he became director of the Royal Institution laboratory, and in 1833 he was made Fullerian Professor of Chemistry.  He declined the presidency of the Royal Society. 

Following Oersted's discovery of electro-magnetism in 1820, Faraday undertook a series of experiments that led, in 1821, to his discovery of electro-magnetic rotation, which is the principle behind the electric motor.  In 1931, he found that by wrapping two coils of insulated wire around an iron ring, and then passing a current through one of the coils, a current was induced in the other coil.  As he was using DC, the induced current was momentary when the current was switched on.  This was the principal of magnetic induction that allowed the development of transformers and generators.  He went on to show that when a coil and a magnet were moved in proximity, an electrical current was induced in the wire.  This became known as Faraday's Law, and is one of the four Maxwell equations that laid the basis for modern Field Theory. 

In 1825 he discovered benzene and describe compounds of chlorine and carbon. He used atomic theory to explain that the characteristics of different chemicals resulted from the attraction and repulsion between atoms.  While an excellent experimenter, being self taught, he had very limited knowledge of mathematics.  Thus, he was unable to express his discoveries in mathematical terms.  His ideas of electromagnetic field theory were rejected by most of his contemporaries, and were not accepted until after his death.  In 1826, he founded the Royal Institution's Friday Evening Discourses and the Christmas Lectures both of which are still given today.  In 1855, Queen Victoria provided a house for his retirement, but he declined a knighthood.  The "farad'", a measure of capacitance, and the "faraday", a measure of electrical charge, are both named after him. 

Physics -

Classical Physics

Biography of Faraday