The Correspondence of Michael Faraday: 1832-1840

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IET, 1991 - 863 páginas

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was one of the most important men of science in nineteenth century Britain. His discoveries of electromagnetic rotations (1821) and electro-magnetic induction (1831) laid the foundations of the modern electrical industry. His discovery of the magneto-optical effect and diamagnetism (1845) led him to formulate the field theory of electro-magnetism, which forms one of the cornerstones of modern physics.

These and a whole host of other fundamental discoveries in physics and chemistry, together with his lecturing at the Royal Institution, his work for the state, his religious beliefs and his lack of mathematical ability, make Faraday one of the most fascinating scientists ever.

All these aspects of his life and work, and others such as his illnesses, are reflected in his correspondence. This volume, in which over 70% of the letters are previously unpublished, covers most of the 1830s. During this period, Faraday pursued the consequences of his discovery of electromagnetic induction, demonstrated the identity of electricities and revised entirely the theories of electro-chemistry (in the process coining now familiar words such as electrode, cathode and ion) and the nature of electricity.

His correspondents in this volume include men and women of science (such as William Whewell, Charles Babbagc, G.B. Airy, J.D. Forbes, Joseph Henry, Alexander von Humboldt, Macedonio Melloni, Christian Schoenbein, Ada Lovelace and Mary Somerville), antiquaries (such as John Gage and Thomas Pettigrew), military and naval men (such as John Barrow, Charles Pasley and Percy Drummond), artists (such as William Wyon, H.W. Pickersgill, John Constable and John Landseer) and politicians (such as Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, Lord Holland and many members of the Holland House circle).

The Correspondence will be a valuable resource for historians and sociologists of science, as well as historians of the nineteenth century and the industrial revolution. It will also be of great interest to electrical engineers, physicists and chemists who want to know more about one of the most eminent figures in their history.

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Acerca del autor (1991)

Michael Faraday, a British physicist and chemist, was one of the greatest experimentalists of the nineteenth century. The son of a blacksmith, Faraday received a minimal education, which did not include much training in mathematics. Nevertheless, in 1812 his innate intelligence attracted the attention of Sir Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution. Davy hired Faraday as a laboratory assistant in the institution; Faraday remained until his retirement in 1862. Here, he made his contributions to the study of electricity by formulating the laws of electrolysis in 1834. Faraday also discovered that the circular lines of magnetic force produced by the flow of current through a wire deflect a nearby compass needle. By demonstrating this conversion of electrical energy into motive force, Faraday identified the basic principles governing the application of the electric motor. Simultaneously with Joseph Henry, Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction and then successfully built the first electric generator based on a suggestion from Scottish mathematician and physicist Lord William Thomson Kelvin. After a series of experiments using polarized light, Faraday proposed an electromagnetic theory of light. This theory was later developed by James Clerk Maxwell and was fundamental to the later development of physics. Faraday was widely known as a popularizer of science, regularly lecturing to lay audiences from 1825 to 1862. Faraday was an extremely modest person. For example, he declined honors bestowed in recognition of his accomplishments, such as a knighthood and the presidency of the Royal Society.

Frank A.J.L. James is Lecturer in History of Science at the Royal Institution Centre for the History of Science and Technology. He has written on physics and chemistry in the nineteenth century and has previously edited the Diary of Herbert McLeod, published by Mansell. With Geoffrey Cantor and David Gooding he has written the biography Faraday, published by Macmillan.Frank James lives in London and is married with three children.

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