Faraday was born on September 22nd 1791. He only received a basic education and had to teach himself. He was born into a working class family and served an apprenticeship to a bookbinder and bookseller. His achievements are all the more impressive when you consider his circumstances.
Faraday's first electric motor used a dish of mercury. A set of electric motor apparatus used by Faraday is on display in the Faraday Museum at the Royal Institution in London. We had the opportunity to see it recently:
The Faraday Museum is small but well worth a visit if you are in the area. (Look out for the interactive periodic table song game and if you're lucky you might be able to peek into the lecture hall used for the Christmas lectures.)
Modern versions of Faraday's motor experiment use salt water. Faraday's motor wasn't yet a practical device but it was a significant step towards the development of modern DC motors that use electromagnetism.
Faraday made many discoveries and contributed significantly to modern science.
"It is the great beauty of our science, chemistry, that advancement in it, whether in a degree great or small, instead of exhausting the subjects of research, opens the doors to further and more abundant knowledge, overflowing with beauty and utility." source
Faraday was a contemporary of Ada Lovelace and they met and corresponded.
Faraday is also notable for beginning the traditional of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. He felt it was important to share scientific knowledge with a wide audience including young people. The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures still take place every year with an inviting speaker giving a series of talks to an audience of school children. The lectures are now televised in the UK and we watch them every year.
Faraday wrote a book called The Chemical History of a Candle and some of his lectures were based on this book. In the book Faraday explored how candles burn.
Recently, Bill Hammack has recreated Faraday's series of lectures on candles:
There are further resources to help modern readers available at the Engineer Guy's Faraday page.
Darcy Pattison has drawn on Faraday's candle book to produce Burn, a picture book which adapts Michael Faraday's book for a young modern audience. This is a lovely combination of science and history.
More Michael Faraday Resources for Kids
- The Royal Institution (where Faraday gave the Christmas Lectures) has an Interactive Timeline of his life.
- Faraday's Experiment - recreate another of Faraday's experiments by inducing current in a wire with a magnet.
- Absolute Genius Michael Faraday episode with Dick and Dom (UK)
- For teenagers, the BBC radio programme In Our Time: Michael Faraday (UK)
- And of course, Faraday's Motorised Bow-tie with Circuit Scribe