How Faraday Is Remembered
During his lifetime Michael Faraday's lectures were watched and appreciated by royalty; he eventually received a royal pension and a grace and favour house. Not bad for a man who had been born into humble circumstances. Here in the 20th century no less a person than Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher named him as one of the most influential people on her own life. Love her or hate her, like Faraday she had no advantages of birth but still rose to a high position. Also like Faraday however she was not perfect and was still capable of making mistakes. However again like Faraday most people remember her for her successes, rather than her failures.
Faraday is especially revered in the electrical engineering industries where he is seen as the great innovator who was responsible for the magnetic induction system that generates so much of our power supply. Most of the effects of magnetism, such as it's effect on light and gasses, he subjected to immense research. He was not perfect though; he could allow his religious beliefs to influence the odd scientific conclusion. It has to be recognised, too, that he was probably not the first person to notice the effect of moving a wire within a magnetic field or vice versa; so whether or not he deserved the magnetic induction accolades is debateable. Perhaps Wollaston deserves more recognition. Faraday was however someone who carried out the first large scale practical experimentation on the relationships between matter, magnetism and electricity.
It is unfortunate that although he is revered for his work in physics his work as a chemist has been sadly neglected. He discovered benzene. As assistant to Humphry Davy he did extensive research on the properties of carbon and chlorine. He was the first person to liquefy chlorine. He worked on alloys of steel, and optical glass. He formulated the laws of electrolysis. He had a great influence on environmental pollution control. He worked to bring an appreciation of science to the population at large, rather than to the gentry of the day.
There are streets in Britain named after him and halls of learning that he never visited and which have no other connection with him whatsoever. His image has appeared on banknotes.
Throughout all his life however he stayed true to the religion of his parents, and remained firm in his conviction that all of the natural laws were created by God, and that by investigating them through experimentation he was getting closer to an understanding of His laws that govern the nature of the universe.
To Faraday, his research work was as much a duty to his creator as to mankind.