The genius of Michael Faraday

15 June 2011

Sir John Meuring Thomas FRS FREng, held the audience spellbound during his erudite lecture on 8 June at the IOP.

The Genius of Michael Faraday lecture at IOP

Sir John once occupied the Chair of Chemistry created for Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, of which he was Director (1986-1991). 

His lecture covered many aspects of Faraday’s life and work, his travels abroad with Davy, learning other European languages, which were later used in correspondence with continental scientists.

He explained how due to stage fright, Charles Wheatstone left through the back door just before a Friday evening discourse, leaving Faraday to step onto the stage and deliver one of his most famous lectures, which was on the discovery of the Electro magnetic field. The Friday discourses still follow the pattern set out by Faraday and, for example, at Dewars 1904 discourse were Rayleigh, Marconi, Balfour and four presidents of the Royal Society.

Not all of Faraday’s work produced positive results and he said of his attempt to find a relation between gravity and electricity “Here end my trials for the present. The results are negative; they do not shake my strong feeling of an existence of a relation between gravity and electricity.”

Lord Rutherford said of Michael Faraday that he was one of the greatest experimenters ever; Albert Einstein believed that Faraday was responsible for the greatest change in the intellectual structure of physics since Newton. There is little doubt that Faraday bequeathed a greater corpus of useful knowledge that any other physical scientist.

This note misses so much but you can find more In Sir John’s book Michael Faraday & The Royal Institution (the genius of man and place). (First published 1991 by IOP Publishing.)

The Branch AGM preceded this lecture. AGM reports are on the Branch page of MyIOP.