Underdogs: Michael Faraday

My favourite ‘Cosmos’ episode was the one on British Scientist Michael Faraday…A man of humble beginnings, born in a class conscious British Society, but whose sheer love for Science, God and Humanity eventually made him one of the most important Scientists the world has known.


Michael Faraday (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867) was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis.

Although Faraday received little formal education, he was one of the most influential scientists in history. It was by his research on the magnetic field around a conductor carrying a direct current that Faraday established the basis for the concept of the electromagnetic field in physics.

Faraday also established that magnetism could affect rays of light and that there was an underlying relationship between the two phenomena. He similarly discovered the principles of electromagnetic induction and diamagnetism, and the laws of electrolysis.

His inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology, and it was largely due to his efforts that electricity became practical for use in technology.

Faraday was an excellent experimentalist who conveyed his ideas in clear and simple language; his mathematical abilities, however, did not extend as far as trigonometry and were limited to the simplest algebra.

James Clerk Maxwell later took the work of Faraday and others and summarized it in a set of equations which is accepted as the basis of all modern theories of electromagnetic phenomena.

On Faraday’s uses of lines of force, Maxwell wrote that they show Faraday “to have been in reality a mathematician of a very high order – one from whom the mathematicians of the future may derive valuable and fertile methods.” The SI unit of capacitance is named in his honour: the farad.

Albert Einstein kept a picture of Faraday on his study wall, alongside pictures of Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell. Physicist Ernest Rutherford stated, “When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and of industry, there is no honour too great to pay to the memory of Faraday, one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”

There you have it, so next time you turn on your TV, remember that without Michael Faraday, the clean power source that runs it and which we take for granted everyday i.e. Electricity might not exist, and maybe this Blog wouldn’t exist either.

Peep the links below for more on Faraday as well as the documentary ‘The Story of Electricity’ which is on our YouTube Channel’s ‘Science & Universe’ Playlist.


Links & Credits

Related: Einstein Bohr Quantum Debate




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