Saturday, 4 February 2012

Who was Michael Faraday?

Michael Faraday, an English chemist and physicist was one of the greatest scientists who contributed to the fields of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His concepts on electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and laws of electrolysis are yet to be disproved.

Source: scienceworld.wolfram
Research in chemistry led him to discover benzene and develop the earliest form of a Bunsen burner. Faraday is reputed to be the first and foremost Fullerian Professor of Chemistry appointed at the Royal Institute of Great Britain.

Faraday was born in a very poor family on 22nd September 1791 in Newington Butts which is now forms a part of the London Borough of Southwark. He had three other siblings and hence was deprived of basic necessity on account of his family's poor status.

So he had to take efforts to educate himself. He worked as an apprentice to a bookseller for seven years and during this period he read many books that helped him to develop a thirst for science. At the age of twenty, Faraday started attending lectures given by notable people like Humphry Davy and John Tatum.

He worked as Davy's secretary and later on was appointed as Chemical Assistant at the Royal Institution in 1813. Faraday's trips with Davy helped him learn about many European scientists and develop sound scientific ideas.

Faraday began his research in chemistry under Humphry Davy. During this time Faraday carried out many experiments and made new discoveries in the field of chemical science. His works include identifying new chlorides of carbon, liquefying gases and the invention of the first Bunsen burner (before it was given this name).

He also discovered the compound benzene and found out the chemical structure of chlorine clathrate hydrate, a substance found out by Davy in 1810. Faraday's laws of electrolysis are widely accepted even today. His extensive research in chemistry also led to the introduction of a new field called nanoscience.

Faraday was well known for his research activities in magnetism and electricity. Faraday worked with several other scientists and discovered several concepts related to electromagnetism. After the death of his mentor, Humphry Davy, he began extensive research that led him to discover electromagnetic induction. His greatest discovery was a phenomenon known as mutual inductance.

By this he showed that an electric field can be produced from an active magnetic field. Using this same principle, Faraday built the dynamo, an earlier form of the present day generator (or electric motor). As he was nearing his end, he proposed various concepts on electromagnetic flux density (not the flux capacitor, however).

Faraday also introduced what is now known as Diamagnetism and the Faraday cage, which are concerned with the properties of electricity. James Clerk Maxwell adopted the theories of Faraday and translated them into a set of equations that formed the basis of all electromagnetic theory.

Apart from scientific research activities, he also undertook numerous complex projects for several private concerns and also for the British government. He also involved himself in several projects related to the construction of light houses and protecting the bottom of ships from getting corroded. Faraday also made efforts to conserve the environment and spread education.

Faraday was honored with a Doctorate in Civil Law by the University of Oxford in 1832. He was appointed as a foreign member to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1838. Faraday passed away on 25th August 1857 in his residence at Hampton court. Even after his death he is still remembered as one of the best scientists to have contributed to the fields of physics and chemistry.

Rumor has it …

Rumor has it that Faraday also invented the first crude stun gun that he used on occasion at night in the taverns he frequented. When someone was in his particular barstool he would zap them from behind to get them to move. Also when his tab at the tavern became too high, he would zap the bartender unconscious, zero out the tab and buy a round of beer on the house. Since most drunkards didn't know what electricity was at that time, Faraday and his stun gun was perceived akin to a wizard with his magic wand, at least in the beer-drinking community.

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