Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:47

Michael Faraday: Men of Ideas

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Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was an English chemist and physicist. Though not formally trained in either chemistry, physics or mathematics, Faraday made seminal contributions to our understanding of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. Through his studies he established that electricity and magnetism go hand in hand and are essentially the same force. He established the basis for electricity as we now know it. He invented the electromagnetic rotary which formed the basis of electric motor technology.

In Chemistry, Faraday discovered benzene, invented the Bunsen burner (now an indispensable source of heat in chemistry laboratories), and contributed to our understanding of anode, cathode, electrode, ion and chlorine clathrate hydrate of chlorine.

Faraday established a law in physics, a law of induction; the law states that a magnetic field changing in time creates proportional electromotive force.

Faraday made his greatest contribution to science by experimentally establishing the linkage between electricity and magnetism (that connection had been suspected by earlier researchers). Through experimentation he found that if he moved a magnet through a loop of wire an electric current flowed on the wire. This showed that a changing magnetic field produces electric field.

(Faraday did not represent his finding in mathematics but a later researcher more trained in mathematics, James Clerk Maxwell, provided a mathematical equation for it, what is now called the four Maxwell equations, equations that form the basis of Field Theory.)

Faraday used his findings to construct the first electric generator.

Faraday’s experimentations contributed to our understanding of electrostatics attraction, electrolysis and magnetism. He pointed out that electromagnetic forces extended into the empty space around conductors. He established that magnetic force and light are related.

In Chemistry, Faraday experimented on chlorine and through his work discovered two chlorides of carbon.

Faraday succeeded in liquefying several gases.  He produced new kinds of glasses for optical use. He invented a system of oxidation numbers. He contributed to what is now called nanoscience by demonstrating that the optical properties of gold colloids differed from those of the corresponding bulk metal; in effect, he showed the effects of quantum size (metallic nanoparticles).

Faraday worked very hard to transform Chemistry into a separate field of study, for he thought it sufficiently different from physics and other branches of science and, as such, ought to stand alone. In this sense he was among the founders of chemistry.

Faraday gave public lectures to young persons on the chemistry and physics of flames (which was later published by the Royal Society for Science as The Chemical History of a Candle).

Faraday made great contributions to Physics and Chemistry and is today considered one of the greatest minds in the history of physics, especially the physics of electricity and magnetism.


Michael Faraday. Experimental Researches in Electricity (1855), edited by Richard and John Edward Taylor.

Michael Faraday. Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics. (1859), edited by Taylor and Francis.

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176