Meet Michael Faraday

His groundbreaking discoveries have labeled him as one of history’s greatest scientists.

It is not uncommon for people to wonder where the term “Faraday” originated. The word “Faraday”, which defines the technology of our products that blocks and/or contains electromagnetic interference/radiation came from a brilliant scientist who spent most of his life in the 19th century.

Birth/Early Life

Born on September 22, 1791, Michael Faraday came from a poor family in London, England. Michael Faraday’s family belonged to a Christian group called the Sandemanians, and his faith would play a large role in his view of science over the course of his life. An apprentice for a bookbinder as a teenager, he became mostly self-taught by way of science books, until in 1813, he was given an opportunity working as an assistant for a chemist at the Royal Institute.

From 1813-1820, Michael Faraday grew in the world of science, rising from a lowly assistant to a very proficient scientist. In 1821, Faraday invented the first (extremely primitive) electric motor. This would be the first of many of his accomplishments over the next few years, including the invention that bears his name today.

Inventing the Faraday Cage

Fifteen years later, after his electric motor, a simple invention that would change the world was taking place in the basement of the Royal Institute. Michael Faraday believed that an electric charge would only reside on the outside of a conductor. To test and prove his point, he built a 12 foot square wooden cage with metal foil. After completing his build, he stepped inside the cage and struck it with high voltage levels of electricity. The lack of electricity inside the cage proved his point, and the Faraday cage was born. 

The Faraday cage was Michael Faraday’s new way of isolating his experiments from the outside world and other electrical interference, which in 1836, was minimal at best. To Faraday, the invention was a simple box for uninterfered experiments, and it is highly unlikely he could have foreseen the impact that this invention would have on modern testing and manufacturing, personal privacy, and national security.

Unwanted Fame

Michael Faraday was a humble man. Despite his efforts to remain low key, he could not avoid becoming a “rockstar” scientist of the time. His many inventions and discoveries drew the attention of millions. Twice he turned down the presidency of the Royal Institute. He gave very popular public lectures, and became a figure who was often the subject of photographs, sculptures, and paintings. Upon receiving an offer of knighthood from Queen Victoria, Michael Faraday refused the honor. Well after his death, Michael Faraday’s face even graced the British £20 bill from 1991-2001.

Family and End of Life

Early on in 1821, Michael Faraday married his wife, Sarah Barnard, and they were married until his death. By the 1840s, Faraday had to step back from his work due to exhaustion and fatigue. He did, however, come back and return to his work a few years later. The English government even came to him and asked for his help in developing chemical weapons during the Crimean war, which he refused to do for ethical reasons. Other work he did included improving ventilation in the English coal mines and fighting against pollution of the Thames River. As he grew older however, dementia began to set in, and he was unable to do most of his work until he died in 1867, just a month before his 76th birthday. His grave is still located at Highgate Cemetery today, where he is buried next to his wife, Sarah.

Michael Faraday’s work in the world of electro-magnetism, organic chemistry, and other fields has impacted countless scientists who have followed after him, including Albert Einstein, who kept a picture of him in his home. His groundbreaking discoveries have labeled him as one of history’s greatest scientists, still impacting us today.

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