English inventor and scientist; noted for his experiments with electricity.
Autograph Letter Signed, Michael Faraday, one and two-third pages, octavo, Royal Institution, June 2, 1843. To John Hennell.
“The water you describe must I conclude be very hard principally from Carbonate of lime. I do not remember what Lep[uan]tes Patent filter is but filtration if quick might do but little separating only a little of the lime & if slow would probably not block up the filter in a few months or a twelvemonth. Boiling you say produces a dark scum. I should have expected rather a f[ine] white or brownish. Boiling ought to make it softer and filtering after boiling ought to make it good. With my best remembrance to Mrs. Hennell.” In a postscript Faraday has added, “I have no other address in your letter than County. I hope that will to our mistake.”
Michael Faraday, the great protégé of chemist Humphry Davy, was in the second generation of what has been called “Romantic era science.” when the central credo was the application of science to practical uses. To this end, there was no greater experimentalist (some say in the history of science) than Faraday. With little formal education, and almost no mathematical training, Faraday, quick, curious, and of an original turn of mind, could grasp the implications of the exciting new field of electricity more profoundly than any other scientist at the time. His lectures – de rigueur for the great Victorian scientists – were as electrifying as their subject matter.
As electricity became the leading science of his generation, Michael Faraday expanded his work into electromagnetism, and began the construction of the first electrical generators by producing an alternating electrical current. This would lead to electrical dynamos that would ultimately revolutionize industry as much as James Watt’s steam engine. His experiment with magnetic coils and a galvanometer (which was made to move without physical contact), carried out at the Royal Institution’s laboratory on August 29th, 1831, was said to have ended the “Age of Steam” at a stroke, and begun the new “Age of Electricity.”
In the 1840s, at the time of this letter, Michael Faraday was delving into the mysteries of what he would call diamagnetism. Faraday discovered that many materials exhibit a weak repulsion from a magnetic field, a phenomenon he named diamagnetism. Ultimately his research would lead to the new perspectives which would result in the classic field theory.
Michael Faraday is highly respected and greatly admired; Einstein was said to keep a photograph of him on his study wall alongside pictures of Isaac Newton and James Clerk Maxwell (Faraday’s disciple).
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