A Gallery of Electromagnetic Personalities 4...


Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was born in a village near London. His father was a migrant blacksmith often ill and incapable of providing for his four children. Faraday's great opportunity came when he was offered a ticket to attend chemical lectures by Sir Humphrey Davy in London. Faraday went and sent a bound copy of his notes to Davy asking for employment. Faraday began as Davy's laboratory assistant. It has been said that Faraday was Davy's greatest discovery. Faraday became the greatest experimentalist in electricity and magnetism of the 19th century. He produced an apparatus that was the first electric motor and in 1831 he succeeded in showing that a magnet could induce electricity. Queen Victoria rewarded his lifetime of achievement by granting him the use of a house at Hampton Court and a knighthood. Faraday accepted the cottage but rejected the knighthood. Photos: Faraday's experiments.

Henry, Lenz

Joseph Henry (1799-1878) was a professor in a small school in Albany, New York. He was the first man in the United States since Franklin to undertake original scientific experiments. He worked to improve electromagnets and was the first to superimpose coils of wire wrapped on an iron core. It is said that he insulated the wire for one of his magnets using a silk dress belonging to his wife. In 1830 he observed electromagnetic induction, a year before Faraday. He was roundly criticized for not publishing his discovery, losing the distinction for American science. Henry did obtain priority for the discovery of self induction, however. He received an appointment at New Jersey College (later Princeton University) and in 1846 became the first director of the Smithsonian Institution. Photo: Henry's coils.

Heinrich F.E. Lenz (1804-1865), born in the old university city of Tartu, Estonia (then in Russia), was a professor at the University of St. Petersburg who carried out many experiments following the initiatives of Faraday. He is memorialized by the law which bears his name - the electrodynamic action of an induced current equally opposes the machanical inducing action- which was later recognized to be an expression of the conservation of energy. His early life is not documented but it is thought that he originally studied for the priesthood.