Let’s be honest, the world of electrical engineering is lacking in celebrities. If there’s any name that springs to mind for those that are ill informed about the advent of electrical technology, that name is most likely Benjamin Franklin. Certainly that would be the case for Americans who were told the stories about him flying his kite with a key attached on a rainy night. Apart from him though, there aren’t too many famed names. Not outside the electrical engineering circle anyway. Yet there were several more figures in the 18th and 19th century (even in more modern times for that matter) who led us to know what we now know about electricity. Some of these people are “rock stars” in the field of electrical engineering. And if there’s a Mick Jagger in that circle, his name is Michael Faraday.
Michael Faraday was born in 1791 in Newington Butts, which would now be a suburb of London, but was a suburb of Surrey. His family wasn’t entirely destitute, but they were by no means affluent, and the education of all of the Faraday children, of which there were four, suffered as a result. Since he received a poor education at the schools he attended, yet possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge, Faraday took an apprenticeship at a book store at the age of 14. He used his apprenticeship as a means to read several books he didn’t have access to otherwise, including seminal (at the time) scientific works like Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry and The Improvement of the Mind by Isaac Watts. Towards the end of this apprenticeship, Faraday frequently attended lectures given by noted chemist Humphry Davy. Over the course of that time, Faraday had written Davy on a regular basis, begging for a job. In 1813, Davy caved and hired Faraday on as a chemical assistant at the Royal Institution in London. Occasionally, due to Faraday’s social stature, he acted as Davy’s valet. While others may have viewed it as demeaning, Faraday viewed it as an opportunity to meet with other scientific luminaries of the era that Davy knew.
Faraday was studious in his work and research, and was by no means an overnight success. But while working by Davy’s side, he started teaching and delivering lectures. These lectures grew ever increasingly popular, and his Friday evening discourses continue to this day at the institution. After a period of time, Faraday was labeled the most compelling scientific lecturer of his era.
He made his real stamp and established his legacy in 1831, 18 years after working at the institution. This is when he discovered electromagnetic induction, the principle that allowed for creation for electric generators and electric transformers. His stature grew in leaps and bounds as a result. At this point in career, he decided to enter the realm of public service. While still teaching and lecturing at the institution, Faraday accepted a position as a professor of chemistry at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich at that same time.
Faraday passed away in 1867 at the age of 75. With old age, he was not able to participate in as much research as he liked, and biographers said this led to deterioration in his mental health, and subsequently his mental health. If Faraday’s discoveries inspired engineers that came after him, so did his passion. There are few that have left such an indelible mark in scientific studies as Michael Faraday did. Learn more aboutdiesel generators and industrial machines here.
Max Stanford is a freelance writer for Worldwide Power Products.