Michael Faraday

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Michael Faraday was born on September 22 1791, near Elephant & Castle, London. At fourteen he apprenticed as a book-binder and during his seven year apprenticeship developed an interest in science.

After he sent Humphrey Davy a sample of notes that he had made, Davy employed Faraday as his assistant. In a class-ridden society, he was not considered to be a gentleman, and it is said that Davy's wife refused to treat him as an equal and would not associate with him socially. His greatest work was with electricity. In 1821, soon after the Danish chemist, Ørsted, discovered the phenomenon of electromagnetism, Faraday built two devices to produce what he called electromagnetic rotation: that is a continuous circular motion from the circular magnetic force around a wire. Ten years later, in 1831, he began his great series of experiments in which he discovered electromagnetic induction. These experiments form the basis of modern electromagnetic technology.

In work on static electricity, Faraday demonstrated that the chrage only resided on the exterior of a charged conductor, and exterior charge had no influence on anything enclosed within a conductor; this shielding effect is used in what is now known as a Faraday Cage.

He gave a successful series of lectures on the chemistry and physics of flames at the Royal Institution, entitled `The Natural History of a candle'; this was the origin of the Christmas lectures for young people that are still given there every year.

The unit of capacitance, the farad is named after him; his picture has been printed on British £20 banknotes.

He died at his house at Hampton Court on August 25 1867.