22 September 1791
Although best known for his discoveries in Physics, Michael Faraday considered himself to be a natural philosopher.
In 1804, at the age of 13 and after a year's trial, Michael was apprenticed to George Riebau, a bookbinder and stationer, who kept a shop in Blandford Street, Manchester Square. Michael's conduct had been so exemplary that he was taken without a fee.
He later had the good fortune to be employed as laboratory assistant by Humphry Davy, at the Royal Institution, eventually succeeding him as director in 1827.
Michael was fascinated by electrical phenomena and conducted many experiments with electricity and magnets, leading to the discovery that a current could be produced by a change in magnetic intensity. In 1831 he published his 'laws of electromagnetic induction'. He also discovered the laws of electrolysis.
Among Michael's many achievements were constructing the first electric transformer, isolating the compound benzene and discovering diamagnetism.
From about 1855, Michael's mind began to fail. He still did occasional experiments, one of which involved attempting to find an electrical effect of raising a heavy weight, since he felt that gravity, like magnetism, must be convertible into some other force, most likely electrical. This time he was disappointed in his expectations, and the Royal Society refused to publish his negative results.
Michael was known throughout his life as a kind and humble person, unconcerned with honours and eager to practice his science to the best of his ability.
Queen Victoria rewarded his lifetime of devotion to science by granting him the use of a house at Hampton Court and even offered him the honour of a knighthood. Michael gratefully accepted the cottage but rejected the knighthood; he would, he said, remain plain Mr. Faraday to the end. He had previously turned down the presidency of the Royal Society, fearing then also that the honour would compromise his integrity.
In 1865, Michael ended his connection with the Royal Institution after over 50 years of service. He died at his house at Hampton Court on 25th August 1867 and was buried in Highgate Cemetery, London, leaving as his monument a new conception of physical reality.
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