Michael Faraday
In the spring of 1812, the year his bookbinding apprenticeship with bookseller George Riebau ended, a customer gave Faraday tickets to attend four lectures to be delivered by the Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution, Humphry Davy (1778-1829).
The Royal Institution was founded in 1799 to promote science, in time of war, to improve agriculture, industry and help expand and exploit the resources of the Empire. This was to be done by providing scientific lectures and advice to those who required it. In 1801, the Royal Institution had secured the services of Davy. Born in Penzance, Davy had made his way to the Pneumatic Institution of Thomas Beddoes (1760-1808) in Bristol, where he discovered the physiological properties of nitrous oxide — laughing gas.
Faraday took detailed notes of Davy's Royal Institution lectures and sent them to him, asking for a position in science. Davy interviewed Faraday at some point in late 1812 but said that there was no suitable position available and so Faraday began a career as a journeyman bookbinder.
In the spring of 1813, following a fight in the Royal Institution's lecture theatre, the laboratory assistant was sacked. Davy was asked to find a replacement. He remembered Faraday and invited him for a second interview, the outcome of which was Faraday's appointment to the post.
By that time, Davy had retired as Professor of Chemistry. He had married a wealthy widow, Jane Apreece (1780-1855), on 11th April 1812, three days after being knighted. In October 1813, Faraday agreed to accompany Davy, as his assistant, amanuensis and reluctant valet, on a tour of the continent. Davy had obtained a special passport from Napoleon, permitting him to visit and pass through France with which Britain was still at war.
For eighteen months they toured France, Switzerland, Italy, and southern Germany, visiting many laboratories and meeting some of the leading scientific figures of the day. The problem with the tour was that Lady Davy treated Faraday as a servant, which resulted in serious tension between them. Davy tried to smooth this over. But when Napoleon staged his hundred-day escape from imprisonment on Elba, Davy decided to cut short the tour. They returned to England in the middle of April, 1815.
Faraday was re-employed at the Royal Institution as a laboratory assistant, working mainly under the new Professor of Chemistry, William Thomas Brande (1788-1866). However, one of his first jobs was to assist Davy in inventing a form of miners' safety lamp.
In the ensuing decades, Faraday progressed up the Royal Institution hierarchy. He was appointed Superintendent of the House in 1821, Director of the Laboratory in 1825 and the Fullerian Professorship of Chemistry was especially created for him in 1833.
All items associated with Michael Faraday  •  Everything built ... 1812 - 1867
sources  DNB, http://www.rigb.org
faraday photo  Royal Institution

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Michael Faraday
This biography was funded by
Higher Education Academy
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