From Publishers Weekly
Nineteenth-century English scientist Faraday, who made the revolutionary discovery that electricity, magnetism and light are all related, personified the self-made man. Son of a blacksmith, Faraday (1791–1867) was apprenticed at an early age to a bookbinder, who encouraged him to pursue the interest in science that he'd gained from reading the books that crossed his workbench. By a great stroke of luck, he went to work for the eminent scientist Sir Humphry Davy. As physicist Hirshfeld (Parallax
) relates, from that point on, Faraday proved unstoppable as he made important discoveries in every field he applied himself to. His breakthrough came when he discovered that he could induce an electric current by moving a magnet inside a coil of wire. This led to his development of the dynamo, precursor to the electric motor. Equally important, Faraday hypothesized that electromagnetism extended into space via lines of flux. Faraday's background in mathematics was weak, so he couldn't prove this, but a young scientist he befriended late in his career, James Clerk Maxwell, finally did. In an elegantly written biography, Hirshfeld, winner of a Templeton Foundation prize for an essay on Faraday, captures the scientist's rough-and-tumble times, and most readers will be able to follow his clear descriptions of Faraday's achievements. 18 b&w illus. (Mar.)
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This is the second recent biography of Michael Faraday (1791-1867), following the lengthier A Life of Discovery,
by James Hamilton (2004). Shorter biographies are the rage these days, and Hirshfeld's efficiently explains Faraday's status as one of the most inspirational and significant figures of science. His up-by-the-bootstraps story tugs at the heartstrings, while his adherence to the experimental method engages the intellect. It is evident, too, that Hirshfeld, a physics professor and author of popular astronomy (Parallax
, 2001), also delights in Faraday's effort to interest the public in science with the weekly demonstrations he gave for decades at London's Royal Institution. Best of all, Hirshfeld delivers concise verbal descriptions of the experiments that Faraday conducted on electricity, magnetism, and light, the body of which directly led to James Clerk Maxwell's mathematical theories unifying light and electromagnetism--and to the dynamo and radio. A vibrant portrayal that emphasizes Faraday's qualities of wonder, acuity, and diligence, which propelled him to greatness. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved