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Happy Belated Birthday, Michael Faraday

Engraving of Michael Faraday, 1830.

Engraving of Michael Faraday, 1830. Fisher Collection, CHF Collections.

Michael Faraday was born September 22, 1791. The son of a poor blacksmith, Faraday grew up in the rigid structures of eighteenth-century England. He was raised with no formal education beyond primary school, and was by all accounts, even well into adulthood, mathematically illiterate. Yet this same Michael Faraday would grow to become one of the greatest and most prolific scientific minds of all time. His body of work would rival that of Einstein’s and Newton’s. He would come to discover diamagnetism, electromagnetic induction, electrolysis, as well as countless other natural phenomenon, and invent the first electric motor. How was it that someone with such humble beginnings could become such an overwhelming intellectual force?

This question was the topic of Sir John Meurig Thomas’ recent lecture at CHF, well-timed for Faraday’s 220th birthday, and it is a question well worth asking. How did Faraday manage this feat? Was it through tireless self-sacrifice, luck, or intellect alone? In answering these questions, Sir Thomas painted a wonderful and thoroughly humanizing portrait of Faraday.

The story of Michael Faraday is, without doubt, the story of genius, of a boy with an unfailingly brilliant and perceptive mind. But, as Sir Thomas emphasized, it is also the story of perseverance, dedication, humility, and above all else, an indomitable desire to grow and learn.

William Herkewitz is an institutional advancement and marketing intern at CHF.

Related:
Michael Faraday [CHF]
Communicating Chemistry [Distillations]

Posted In: History

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