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Faraday Lecture

We are proud to announce the first profile in our #OnTheShouldersOfGiants series, in recognition of those historical inventors, scientists and engineers that make Smart-e's innovations in the AV industry possible. Our first profile is physicist, chemist and titan of the 19th century Michael Faraday (22 September 1791 – 25 August 1867).

The fourth son of a northern blacksmith, Faraday grew up in Newton, Surrey after his father moved south to find work. The family lived in poverty due to his father’s frequent illnesses which prevented him from working steady jobs. Aged 14 Faraday became apprenticed to a bookbinder, and despite having only had a rudimentary education he soon became fascinated by some of the books he was allowed to read. After reading the chapter on electricity in the 3rd edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica he was inspired, and built a primitive battery with which he conducted basic electrical experiments.


Young Faraday Portrait


When Faraday was offered a ticket to attend the lectures being given by Sir Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution he jumped at the chance, and afterwards bound the notes he had taken during the lecture and sent them to Davy with a letter asking for employment. Davy had no current spaces available, but after one of his assistants was dismissed for brawling he remembered Faraday’s letter and offered him the job.

Thus began the scientific career of Michael Faraday, one that led to some of the most important scientific discoveries of the Victorian Age. While Faraday is probably best known for inventing the first electric motor and the first electric dynamo, he was also the first person to produce an electric current from a magnetic field, the discoverer of the effects of magnetism on light, and the creator of the first known compounds of carbon and chlorine, among many other significant discoveries.


Old Faraday Portrait


Faraday was rewarded for his pioneering work with a knighthood (which he declined) and the position as the first Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution. By the time of his death in 1867 Faraday was already seen as a giant within the sciences, and his reputation only grew as the usefulness of electricity became more apparent. Before his death he had been offered a grave spot in Westminster Abbey, he refused and was buried instead in Highgate Cemetery. A memorial plaque to him exists within Westminster Abbey, not far from the tomb of Isaac Newton.

Faraday’s legacy cannot be overstated, he remains one of the most recognisable scientists of all time, and one whose discoveries and inventions are still important today. His life story as a child born into poverty who became one of the intellectual titans of his era is inspirational, and gives his legacy a poignancy that many of his contemporaries lack in comparison.

Albert Einstein famously had a picture of him on his wall alongside Isaac Newton and James Clark Maxwell, and his legacy has continued to encourage generations of budding scientists over 150 years after his death.


‘The philosopher should be a man willing to listen to every suggestion, but determined to judge for himself. He should not be a respector of persons, but of things. Truth should be his primary object.’ - Michael Faraday (1791-1867)



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