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A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution Hardcover – December 7, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (December 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060160
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,308,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When an art historian writes a biography of the leading scientific figure of 19th-century England, the focus is likely to be broader than science. Hamilton (Turner: A Life), an art curator at the University of Birmingham in England, does use a wide-angle lens in this vivid look at the man who helped establish the laws of electromagnetism. He argues persuasively that the cultural gap between art and science—so clear today—had not yet formed during Faraday's lifetime (1791–1867), and that Faraday played a significant role in bringing intellectuals of all persuasions together. Hamilton mines numerous other biographies, the voluminous research notes left by Faraday, as well as ample correspondence by and to the scientist to dramatize Faraday's amazing rise from a poorly educated bookbinder's apprentice to a world-renowned scientist and science educator (he was a hugely popular lecturer). Hamilton explores the role of Faraday's religious faith (he belonged to the small, rigid Sandemanian sect of Christianity) and his friendships with artists of the time. What one won't gain here is a deep understanding of Faraday's scientific discoveries. But scientifically knowledgeable readers will gain an appreciation of what broader intellectual life was like during this critical period. 8 pages of photos, one map not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When his experiments went explosively awry, Michael Faraday repeatedly found his eyes filled with glass and his own blood. But a perceptive biographer allows readers to see much more than shattered laboratory equipment through eyes eventually famous for penetrating the mysteries of electricity. Indeed, Hamilton invites readers to see those contours of Faraday's life often neglected by biographers narrowly focused on his electrical research. We see, for instance, how, when shielded from public scrutiny, the mature genius but still straitlaced man allowed himself remarkable intimacy in correspondence with a free-spirited female mathematician. Even in turning to Faraday's acclaimed science, Hamilton highlights the nonscientific, exploring the piquant personalities of the mentors and collaborators who helped Faraday on his way and tracing the remarkably artistic metaphors Faraday employed in explaining his breakthroughs. And alongside a lucid scientific account of how Faraday's daring mind united wires and magnets in the world's first generator, Hamilton offers an acute psychological analysis of the peculiar fissures dividing that mind. Readers thus join Hamilton in pondering the curious schizophrenia that allowed Faraday to crusade for educational reform with poise but still left him insecure and self-abasing when addressing his own Protestant community on religious issues. A complete portrait, restoring full humanity to a scientific icon. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on July 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a sad fact of modern life--at least in America--that so many of the great scientific minds that helped create our modern life are forgotten. As a high school science teacher, I try to give my students some knowledge of the important figures of scientific history. Standing as one of the giants of nineteenth century science is the subject of this book, Michael Faraday.

Faraday's rise to the top of the scientific world is an interesting one. The son of a blacksmith, Faraday was apprenticed at an early age to a bookbinder. During his apprenticeship, however, he became interested in science through the popular public lectures on the subject and likely through reading some of the books he was binding. As his apprenticeship came to an end, Faraday tried to apprentice himself to a scientist and, through both hard work and good luck, attached himself to one of the most important scientists of the day, Humphrey Davy.

While working with Davy, Faraday learned the fundamentals of scientific research, demonstrating extraordinary ability as an experimentalist. In time, Faraday became his own man, achieving a place of honor at the Royal Institution where he loyally remained for the rest of his career. During that time, he made a number of important discoveries, including the basics of electromagnetism, developing the prototype of the modern electric generator among other devices that will become integral to our modern society. He also made a name for himself as a popular lecturer on science whose fame at the time could only be equaled by Charles Dickens. Through this, he made known his lifelong belief in universal scientific education for the young.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Arndt on June 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
One thing that delighted me about this book and about the person of Michael Faraday was the mixture of science and faith. While these two disciplines have parted ways and are no longer intertwined for many in the modern world, Michael Faraday is an intriguing example of both a devout believer and a ground breaking researcher.

Faraday's story also has immense appeal as it relates his rise out of humble beginnings on the basis of his own genius and merit, in contrast with the lingering emphasis of his time on inheirited wealth and position.

My only criticism is that the author, who evidently has written much in the realm of art history, adds a bit more content on art to this biography than seems justified.

On the whole, I recommend this book as it is a well told tale about a significant and intriguing character whose story is very much worth retelling and considering anew.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Roberto Carlos on February 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although it might sound as a very good idea, it is obviously pretty brave to write about Michael Faraday when you're not a scientist. Hamilton does complain in the editorial already to have accepted this work, and worthy enough to mention, he does not do a good job. Reading this long book you do get a lot of more or less single informations on the life of MF that taken together do not make up more than a small-minded reconstruction of whome he answered which letter when and using which tone. Pretty few notes on where science came from and what the dream of a final theory was about. Nothing at all on Maxwell and his electrodynamics, this alone is inexcusable. Nothing of course on how the theory failed already with Michelson and Morley in the late 1880's. Einstein, who admired Faraday like almost nodbody else, isn't even mentioned once. We do not get an insight into the Sandemanian sect. What we do get is pages of analysis of random photographs showing MF and others. This book has little understanding of the matter and therefore no life in it. Sorry.
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By D-pen on November 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Faraday's family, social, and professional development were new to me, but I have read more engaging biographies that did not seem as long. There were some needless repetitions (not sure if the author was trying to drive a point within a few pages or an edit opportunity was missed). The science was not always accurate, and could have been corrrected with a basic chem text. It was many chapters after I had already gone to Wikipedia to learn about the Sandemanian religion that the author finally described it. The relevant current events could have been brought in for better context. The art angle seemed to be overplayed.
For a example biographies that try to bridge the technical impact and the social/ethical conflicts, try Wright Brothers (J Tobin) and Werner von Braun (MJ Neufeld).
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Format: Hardcover
I was quite a surprise to read that in the early research of Michael Faraday that he was making attempts to tap into planetary motion.

In the book it tells the story of his attempts using many hundreds of feet of copper wire and running the ends into a pond to use planetary motion to produce electrical energy.

He also used copper and iron wire in attempts to extract energy from the high speed motion of our planet. Of course that our planet is in motion was known since the work in 1729 of English astronomer James Bradley.

Only in the mid twentieth century did astronomers reveal how fast we are actually going. Nearly 600 miles per second. That's the combined planetary, solar and galactic motions.

This gives an explanation of where energy is to be drawn from to power free energy over unity machines. These machines are called "Velocity power sources."

The book is a good read. I'd of given it five stars of it had a little bit more technical details of his experiments, Though there are other books that are written specific to his technical research.

Has some nice pictures in it to.

Its an enjoyable read.
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