Michael Faraday


English Chemist, Physicist, Natural Philosopher and Scientist contributing in the fields of Electromagnetism and Electrochemistry, Inventor of the Faraday Cage

Author Quotes

Who would not have been laughed at if he had said in 1800 that metals could be extracted from their ores by electricity or that portraits could be drawn by chemistry.

Why, sir, there is every probability that you will soon be able to tax it!

With respect to Committees as you would perceive I am very jealous of their formation. I mean working committees. I think business is always better done by few than by many. I think also the working few ought not to be embarrassed by the idle many and further I think the idle many ought not to be honored by association with the working few. ? I do not think that my patience has ever come nearer to an end than when compelled to hear ... long rambling malapropros enquiries of members who still have nothing in consequence to propose that shall advance the business.

Within the laws of Nature, nothing is too wonderful to be true.

Yet even in earthly matters I believe that "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead," and I have never seen anything incompatible between those things of man which can be known by the spirit of man which is within him, and those higher things concerning his future, which he cannot know by that spirit.

You can hardly imagine how I am struggling to exert my poetical ideas just now for the discovery of analogies and remote figures respecting the earth, Sun and all sorts of things?for I think it is the true way (corrected by judgment) to work out a discovery.

You will be astonished when I tell you what this curious play of carbon amounts to. A candle will burn some four, five, six, or seven hours. What, then, must be the daily amount of carbon going up into the air in the way of carbonic acid! ... Then what becomes of it? Wonderful is it to find that the change produced by respiration ... is the very life and support of plants and vegetables that grow upon the surface of the earth.

Your remarks upon chemical notation with the variety of systems which have arisen? had almost stirred me up to regret publicly that such hindrances to the progress of science should exist. I cannot help thinking it a most unfortunate thing that men who as experimentalists and philosophers are the most fitted to advance the general cause of science and knowledge should by promulgation of their own theoretical views under the form of nomenclature, notation, or scale, actually retard its progress.

What a delight it is to think that you are quietly and philosophically at work in the pursuit of science... rather than fighting amongst the crowd of black passions and motives that seem now a days to urge men everywhere into action. What incredible scenes everywhere, what unworthy motives ruled for the moment, under high sounding phrases and at the last what disgusting revolutions.

When the Prime Minister asked of a new discovery, 'What good is it?' Faraday replied, 'What good is a new-born baby?'

Whereas, according to the declaration of that true man of the world Talleyrand, the use of language is to conceal the thoughts; this is to declare in the present instance, when I say I am not able to bear much talking, it means really, and without any mistake, or equivocation, or oblique meaning, or implication, or subterfuge, or omission, that I am not able; being at present rather weak in the head, and able to work no more.

Whilst attempting to explain a discovery to either Gladstone (Chancellor) or Peel (Prime Minister) he was asked, 'But, after all, what use is it?' Faraday replied, 'Why sir, there is the probability that you will soon be able to tax it.'

The lecturer should give the audience full reason to believe that all his powers have been exerted for their pleasure and instruction.

The nature of sound and its dependence on a medium we think we understand, pretty well. The nature of light as dependent on a medium is now very largely accepted. The presence of a medium in the phenomena of electricity and magnetism becomes more and more probable daily. We employ ourselves, and I think rightly, in endeavoring to elucidate the physical exercise of these forces, or their sets of antecedents and consequents, and surely no one can find fault with the labors which eminent men have entered upon in respect of light, or into which they may enter as regards electricity and magnetism. Then what is there about gravitation that should exclude it from consideration also? Newton did not shut out the physical view, but had evidently thought deeply of it; and if he thought of it, why should not we, in these advanced days, do so too?

The new term physicist is both to my mouth and ears so awkward that I think I shall never use it. The equivalent of three separate sounds of i in one word is too much.

The secret is comprised in three words ? Work, finish, publish.

The utterance should not be rapid and hurried, and consequently unintelligible, but slow and deliberate, conveying ideas with ease?

The world little knows how many of the thoughts and theories which have passed through the mind of a scientific investigator, have been crushed in silence and secrecy by his own severe criticism and adverse examination!

There is no more open door by which you can enter into the study of natural philosophy than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle.

Tis well, too, when the lecturer has the ready wit and presence of mind to turn any casual circumstances to an illustration of his subject. Any particular circumstance that has become table-talk of the town, any local advantages and disadvantages, any trivial circumstance that may arise in company, give great force to the illustrations drawn from them, and please the audience highly as they conceive they perfectly understand them.

Today we made the grand experiment of burning the diamond and certainly the phenomena presented were extremely beautiful and interesting... The Duke's burning glass was the instrument used to apply heat to the diamond. It consists of two double convex lenses... The instrument was placed in an upper room of the museum and having arranged it at the window the diamond was placed in the focus and anxiously watched. The heat was thus continued for 3/4 of an hour (it being necessary to cool the globe at times) and during that time it was thought that the diamond was slowly diminishing and becoming opaque ... On a sudden Sir H Davy observed the diamond to burn visibly, and when removed from the focus it was found to be in a state of active and rapid combustion. The diamond glowed brilliantly with a scarlet light, inclining to purple and, when placed in the dark, continued to burn for about four minutes. After cooling the glass heat was again applied to the diamond and it burned again though not for nearly so long as before. This was repeated twice more and soon after the diamond became all consumed. This phenomenon of actual and vivid combustion, which has never been observed before, was attributed by Sir H Davy to be the free access of air; it became more dull as carbonic acid gas formed and did not last so long.

Tyndall... I must remain plain Michael Faraday to the last; and let me now tell you, that if accepted the honor which the Royal Society desires to confer upon me, I would not answer for the integrity of my intellect for a single year.

Water is to me, I confess, a phenomenon which continually awakens new feelings of wonder as often as I view it.

We learn by such results as these, what is the kind of education that science offers to man. It teaches us to be neglectful of nothing, not to despise the small beginnings ? they precede of necessity all great things. Vesicles make clouds; they are trifles light as air, but then they make drops, and drops make showers, rain makes torrents and rivers, and these can alter the face of a country, and even keep the ocean to its proper fullness and use. It teaches a continual comparison of the small and great, and that under differences almost approaching the infinite, for the small as often contains the great in principle, as the great does the small; and thus the mind becomes comprehensive. It teaches to deduce principles carefully, to hold them firmly, or to suspend the judgment, to discover and obey law, and by it to be bold in applying to the greatest what we know of the smallest. It teaches us first by tutors and books, to learn that which is already known to others, and then by the light and methods which belong to science to learn for ourselves and for others; so making a fruitful return to man in the future for that which we have obtained from the men of the past.

The generality of mankind cannot accompany us one short hour unless the path is strewed with flowers.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date
Death Date

English Chemist, Physicist, Natural Philosopher and Scientist contributing in the fields of Electromagnetism and Electrochemistry, Inventor of the Faraday Cage