Faraday, Michael (1791-1867), an English physicist and chemist. Faraday's research in electricity and magnetism led to his invention of the electric motor and the electric generator, two inventions that laid the basis for much of the technology of the 20th century. In 1821 he used a magnet and a wire carrying an electric current to produce mechanical motion, thereby creating an electric motor. Ten years later, using magnetism and mechanical motion to produce an electric current, Faraday invented the dynamo or generator.
Faraday formulated the basic laws of electrolysis during his early work in chemistry. Ion, anode, cathode, and electrode are some of the scientific terms he introduced. In 1825 he discovered benzene, an important organic compound. In 1845 he discovered the Faraday Effect, a phenomenon in which magnetism affects the orientation of light waves in polarized light. His later days were spent in formulating a general electromagnetic field theory, later completed by James Clerk Maxwell. The farad, the unit of electrical capacitance, is named for him.
The son of a blacksmith in Newington, Surrey, Faraday received little formal schooling. He became interested in science while apprenticed to a London bookbinder. In 1813 he got a job as laboratory assistant to Sir Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution in London. Faraday became director of the laboratory in 1825 and professor of chemistry in 1833. He scorned wealth and worldly honors, refusing knighthood and the presidency of the Royal Society. While other men made money from his discoveries, Faraday devoted himself exclusively to scientific research.
The results of much of his scientific investigation are recorded in Experimental Researches in Electricity (1844-55) and Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics (1859).