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Michael Faraday

Birthdate: 22. September 1791
Date of death: 25. August 1867

Michael Faraday FRS 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.

As a chemist, Faraday discovered benzene, investigated the clathrate hydrate of chlorine, invented an early form of the Bunsen burner and the system of oxidation numbers, and popularised terminology such as "anode", "cathode", "electrode" and "ion". Faraday ultimately became the first and foremost Fullerian Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution, a lifetime position.

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 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." Wikipedia

Works

„Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties.“

—  Michael Faraday

When asked about his speculations on life beyond death, as quoted in The Homiletic Review‎ (April 1896), p. 442
Context: Speculations? I have none. I am resting on certainties. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

„Bacon in his instruction tells us that the scientific student ought not to be as the ant, who gathers merely, nor as the spider who spins from her own bowels, but rather as the bee who both gathers and produces.“

—  Michael Faraday

Lecture notes of 1858, quoted in The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870) by Bence Jones, Vol. 2, p. 404
Context: Bacon in his instruction tells us that the scientific student ought not to be as the ant, who gathers merely, nor as the spider who spins from her own bowels, but rather as the bee who both gathers and produces. All this is true of the teaching afforded by any part of physical science. Electricity is often called wonderful, beautiful; but it is so only in common with the other forces of nature. The beauty of electricity or of any other force is not that the power is mysterious, and unexpected, touching every sense at unawares in turn, but that it is under law, and that the taught intellect can even now govern it largely. The human mind is placed above, and not beneath it, and it is in such a point of view that the mental education afforded by science is rendered super-eminent in dignity, in practical application and utility; for by enabling the mind to apply the natural power through law, it conveys the gifts of God to man.

„Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature“

—  Michael Faraday

Laboratory journal entry #10,040 (19 March 1849); published in The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870) Vol. II, edited by Henry Bence Jones https://archive.org/stream/lifelettersoffar02joneiala#page/248/mode/2up/search/wonderful,p.248.This has sometimes been quoted partially as "Nothing is too wonderful to be true," and can be seen engraved above the doorway of the south entrance to the Humanities Building at UCLA in Los Angeles, California. http://lit250v.library.ucla.edu/islandora/object/edu.ucla.library.universityArchives.historicPhotographs%3A67
Context: ALL THIS IS A DREAM. Still examine it by a few experiments. Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature; and in such things as these, experiment is the best test of such consistency.

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„I have far more confidence in the one man who works mentally and bodily at a matter than in the six who merely talk about it“

—  Michael Faraday

and I therefore hope and am fully persuaded that you are working. Nature is our kindest friend and best critic in experimental science if we only allow her intimations to fall unbiased on our minds. Nothing is so good as an experiment which, whilst it sets an error right, gives us (as a reward for our humility in being reproved) an absolute advancement in knowledge.
Letter to John Tyndall (19 April 1851); letter 2411, edited by [Frank A. J. L. James, The correspondence of Michael Faraday, Volume 4, IET, 1999, 0863412513, 281]

„Among those points of self-education which take up the form of mental discipline, there is one of great importance, and, moreover, difficult to deal with, because it involves an internal conflict, and equally touches our vanity and our ease. It consists in the tendency to deceive ourselves regarding all we wish for, and the necessity of resistance to these desires.“

—  Michael Faraday

Royal Institution Lecture On Mental Education (6 May 1854), as reprinted in Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics, by Michael Faraday, 1859, pp 474-475, emphasis verbatim.
Context: Among those points of self-education which take up the form of mental discipline, there is one of great importance, and, moreover, difficult to deal with, because it involves an internal conflict, and equally touches our vanity and our ease. It consists in the tendency to deceive ourselves regarding all we wish for, and the necessity of resistance to these desires. It is impossible for any one who has not been constrained, by the course of his occupation and thoughts, to a habit of continual self-correction, to be aware of the amount of error in relation to judgment arising from this tendency. The force of the temptation which urges us to seek for such evidence and appearances as are in favour of our desires, and to disregard those which oppose them, is wonderfully great. In this respect we are all, more or less, active promoters of error. In place of practising wholesome self-abnegation, we ever make the wish the father to the thought: we receive as friendly that which agrees with, we resist with dislike that which opposes us; whereas the very reverse is required by every dictate of common sense.

„I am, I hope, very thankful that in the withdrawal of the powers and things of life, the good hope is left with me, which makes the contemplation of death a comfort — not a fear.“

—  Michael Faraday

Letter to Auguste de la Rive (1861), as quoted in The Philosopher's Tree : A Selection of Michael Faraday's Writings (1999) edited by Peter Day, p. 199
Context: I am, I hope, very thankful that in the withdrawal of the powers and things of life, the good hope is left with me, which makes the contemplation of death a comfort — not a fear. Such peace is alone the gift of God, and as it is He who gives it, why should we be afraid? His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope, and there is the rest for those who )like you and me) are drawing near the latter end of our terms here below. I do not know, however why I should join you with me in years. I forget your age, but this I know (and feel as well) that next Sabbath day (the 22nd) I shall complete my 70th year. I can hardly think myself so old as I write to you — so much of cheerful spirit, ease and general health is left to me, and if my memory fails, why it causes that I forget troubles as well as pleasure and the end is, I am happy and content.

„It teaches us first by tutors and books, to learn that which is already known to others, and then by the light and methods which belong to science to learn for ourselves and for others; so making a fruitful return to man in the future for that which we have obtained from the men of the past.“

—  Michael Faraday

Lecture notes of 1858, quoted in The Life and Letters of Faraday (1870) by Bence Jones, Vol. 2, p. 403
Context: We learn by such results as these, what is the kind of education that science offers to man. It teaches us to be neglectful of nothing, not to despise the small beginnings — they precede of necessity all great things. Vesicles make clouds; they are trifles light as air, but then they make drops, and drops make showers, rain makes torrents and rivers, and these can alter the face of a country, and even keep the ocean to its proper fulness and use. It teaches a continual comparison of the small and great, and that under differences almost approaching the infinite, for the small as often contains the great in principle, as the great does the small; and thus the mind becomes comprehensive. It teaches to deduce principles carefully, to hold them firmly, or to suspend the judgment, to discover and obey law, and by it to be bold in applying to the greatest what we know of the smallest. It teaches us first by tutors and books, to learn that which is already known to others, and then by the light and methods which belong to science to learn for ourselves and for others; so making a fruitful return to man in the future for that which we have obtained from the men of the past.

„Nature is our kindest friend and best critic in experimental science if we only allow her intimations to fall unbiased on our minds.“

—  Michael Faraday

Letter to John Tyndall (19 April 1851); letter 2411, edited by
Context: I have far more confidence in the one man who works mentally and bodily at a matter than in the six who merely talk about it — and I therefore hope and am fully persuaded that you are working. Nature is our kindest friend and best critic in experimental science if we only allow her intimations to fall unbiased on our minds. Nothing is so good as an experiment which, whilst it sets an error right, gives us (as a reward for our humility in being reproved) an absolute advancement in knowledge.

„The important thing is to know how to take all things quietly.“

—  Michael Faraday

As quoted in Treasury of the Christian Faith : An Encyclopedic Handbook of the Range and Witness of Christianity (1949) by Stanley Irving Stuber and Thomas Curtis Clark, p. 807

„The secret is comprised in three words — Work, finish, publish.“

—  Michael Faraday

His well-known advice to the young William Crookes, who had asked him the secret of his success as a scientific investigator, as quoted in Michael Faraday (1874) by John Hall Gladstone, p. 123

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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