Cover image for Michael Faraday : physics and faith
Michael Faraday : physics and faith
Russell, Colin Archibald.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
124 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
A biography of the nineteenth-century English scientist whose religious beliefs guided his exploration of electricity and magnetism.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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QC16.F2 R87 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Michael Faraday (1791-1867), the son of a blacksmith, described his education as "little more than the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic at a common day-school." Yet from such basics, he became one of the most prolific and wide-ranging experimental scientists who ever lived. As abookbinder's apprentice with a voracious appetite for learning, he read every book he got his hands on. In 1812 he attended a series of chemistry lectures by Sir Humphry Davy at London's prestigious Royal Institution. He took copious and careful notes, and, in the hopes of landing a scientific job,bound them and sent them to the lecturer. Davy was impressed enough to hire the 21-year-old as a laboratory assistant. In his first decade at the Institution, Faraday discovered benzene, isobutylene, and two chlorides of carbon. But despite these and other accomplishments in chemistry, he is chiefly remembered for his work in physics. In 1831 he proved that magnetism could generate an electric current, therebyestablishing the field of electromagnetism and leading to the invention of the dynamo. In addition to his extraordinary scientific activities, Faraday was a leader in his church, whose faith and wish to serve guided him throughout his career. An engaging public speaker, he gave popular lectures onscientific subjects, and helped found a tradition of scientific education for children and laypeople that continues to this day. Oxford Portraits in Science is an ongoing series of scientific biographies for young adults. Written by top scholars and writers, each biography examines the personality of its subject as well as the thought process leading to his or her discoveries. These illustrated biographies combine accessibletechnical information with compelling personal stories to portray the scientists whose work has shaped our understanding of the natural world.

Author Notes

Colin A. Russell is at The Open University, Milton Keynes, England.

Reviews 1

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-The significance of the work of this 19th-century British scientist is well thought out in this biography. Most noted for his invention of the electric transformer and the dynamo, Faraday is also credited with the electric motor. The son of a blacksmith, he spent his teen years as a bookbinder's apprentice but his love of science led him to the Royal Institution in London. Experiments with whale oil and gases produced from it led to the discovery of benzene, now used in many useful substances. He remained loyal to his Sandemanian church, a sect known for its strict moral principles. This book, while trying its best to personalize this scientist, does a better job of describing Faraday's work in the context of the times in which he lived. Mature readers will appreciate a beginning chapter about London in the late 1700s in which a science lecture was as well attended as an opera. The way in which scientific etiquette affected Faraday's progression of experiments is complex but fascinating. A sample lecture, document reproductions, and excerpts from letters will satisfy a need for primary-source material.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.