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Michael Faraday, Father of the First Electric Motor (1791-1867)

Thanks to the discovery of electromagnetic induction it has been possible to construct power units (alternators) and, as a result of that, generators.

The British physicist and chemist is considered to be the founding father of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.


[su_tabs][su_tab title=»The inventor»]Faraday-1 Faraday was from a humble family which was unable to pay the costs of his higher education. However, between the ages of 14 and 21, he educated himself in several scientific disciplines, reading whatever specialist books he could find during his apprenticeship as a bookbinder in London. When he was 22 years old, after having attended lectures given by the chemist Humphry Davy, he was appointed as chemical assistant at the Royal Institution in London. This job gave him the opportunity to travel to several European countries with his mentor and to meet other famous scientists as well as to take part in experiments carried out by his colleagues at the Royal Institution.[/su_tab] [su_tab title=»Discoveries»]

His work was fundamental in the development of electricity since he discovered that a time-varying magnetic flux through a loop of wire produced voltage.

Faraday laid the groundwork for the theory of electromagnetism, which James Clerk Maxwell (to whom we’ll devote the next article in the blog section “Scientists Who Changed the World”) was later able to develop. This theory made possible the coming into being of the electrical industry. The Professor of Didactics of Experimental Sciences at the University of Seville, Spain, Fernando Rivero Garrayo explains, “Without the development of electromagnetism and its technical applications, we would still be using candles or oil lamps for light, factories would powered by water mills or windmills, and hardly any of the present-day industries – electrochemical, automobile, electronics – would exist.”

  • In 1821, although the Danish chemist Hans Christian Ørsted had already discovered electromagnetism by then, Faraday constructed two devices to produce what he then called “electromagnetic rotation” and, using this name as his title, he published the results of his work. This, in fact, describes the principle of what we now know as the electric motor.



  • He discovered the laws of electrolysis, as a result of which he is deemed to be the true founder of electromagnetism and electrochemistry.


  • The Faraday cage is defined in the web page of the Technical University of Madrid as follows: “A Faraday cage is a mental enclosure blocking external static electric fields. […] It is used as protection against electric charges since there is no electric field in the cage’s interior. […] Many devices that we use in everyday life are equipped with a Faraday cage, for example microwave ovens, scanners, cables, and so on. Other devices, which do not incorporate a Faraday cage, act as such. These include lifts, cars and aeroplanes. This is why it is recommended that people should remain inside their car when caught in an electric storm: its metal bodywork acts as if it were a Faraday cage.”


  • Faraday was the first to succeed in liquefying several gases: carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen bromide and chlorine.


  • He discovered benzene (hydrocarbon) in 1825 while trying to resolve a combustion problem with the gas lighting in London.


To a great extent, we owe concepts like electrode, cathode and ion to Faraday.

In recognition of his contributions, the name faraday was first given to the unit of electrical charge and, subsequently, the unit of electrical capacitance was called the farad.

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Faraday wrote a Diary in which he systematically and meticulously noted all his ideas, observations, theoretical deductions and the results of his laboratory work. It is a good indication of the methodical structure of his thought.

In 1826 he organised a series of talks on science in the Royal Institution, which were held on Friday afternoons. They are still being held today.

In 1825 he was appointed director of the laboratory at the Royal Institution and, in 1833, he replaced his teacher, Humphry Davy, as Fullerian Professor of Chemistry, also in the Royal Institution.

In addition to his scientific readings, Faraday read books to stimulate his imagination, for example One Thousand and One Nights, and others that would teach him to think, such as Isaac Watts’ The Improvement of the Mind.

According to Wikipedia, Queen Victoria granted him a Grace and Favour Home, where he was to die nine years after going to live there.


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The Relationship between Electromagnetic Induction and Generators

Thanks to the discovery of electromagnetic induction it has been possible to construct power units (alternators) and, as a result of that, generators. The generator consists of an internal combustion engine, which supplies mechanical energy, and an alternator, which converts this mechanical energy into electrical energy by means of processes of electromagnetic induction.




UPM (Technical University of Madrid).
For further detailed information:
Faraday, by Miguel Sánchez Ruiz (Department of Applied Physics III. Complutense University of Madrid). In Spanish.