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´╗┐Title: Faraday as a Discoverer
Author: Tyndall, John, 1820-1893
Language: English
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by John Tyndall



  Chapter 1.
   Parentage: introduction to the royal institution:
   earliest experiments: first royal society paper: marriage.

  Chapter 2.
   Early researches: magnetic rotations: liquefaction of gases:
   heavy glass: Charles Anderson: contributions to physics.

  Chapter 3.
   Discovery of Magneto-electricity: Explanation of Argo's magnetism
   of rotation: Terrestrial magneto-electric induction:
   The extra current.

  Chapter 4.
   Points of Character.

  Chapter 5.
   Identity of electricities; first researches on electro-chemistry.

  Chapter 6.
   Laws of electro-chemical decomposition.

  Chapter 7.
   Origin of power in the voltaic pile.

  Chapter 8.
   Researches on frictional electricity: induction: conduction:
   specific inductive capacity: theory of contiguous particles.

  Chapter 9.
   Rest needed--visit to Switzerland.

  Chapter 10.
   Magnetization of light.

  Chapter 11.
   Discovery of diamagnetism--researches on magne-crystallic action.

  Chapter 12.
   Magnetism of flame and gases--atmospheric magnetism.

  Chapter 13.
   Speculations: nature of matter: lines of force.

  Chapter 14.
   Unity and convertibility of natural forces: theory of the
   electric current.

  Chapter 15.

  Chapter 16.
   Illustrations of Character.

Preface to the fifth edition.

Daily and weekly, from all parts of the world, I receive publications
bearing upon the practical applications of electricity. This great
movement, the ultimate outcome of which is not to be foreseen, had its
origin in the discoveries made by Michael Faraday, sixty-two years ago.
From these discoveries have sprung applications of the telephone order,
together with various forms of the electric telegraph. From them have
sprung the extraordinary advances made in electrical illumination.
Faraday could have had but an imperfect notion of the expansions of
which his discoveries were capable. Still he had a vivid and strong
imagination, and I do not doubt that he saw possibilities which did not
disclose themselves to the general scientific mind. He knew that his
discoveries had their practical side, but he steadfastly resisted
the seductions of this side, applying himself to the development of
principles; being well aware that the practical question would receive
due development hereafter.

During my sojourn in Switzerland this year, I read through the proofs of
this new edition, and by my reading was confirmed in the conviction that
the book ought not to be suffered to go out of print. The memoir was
written under great pressure, but I am not ashamed of it as it stands.
Glimpses of Faraday's character and gleams of his discoveries are there
to be found which will be of interest to humanity to the end of time.

John Tyndall. Hind Head, December, 1893.

[Note.--It was, I believe, my husband's intention to substitute
this Preface, written a few days before his death, for all former
Prefaces. As, however, he had not the opportunity of revising the old
prefatory pages himself, they have been allowed to remain just as they
stood in the last edition.

Louisa C. Tyndall.]

Preface to the fourth edition.

When consulted a short time ago as to the republication of 'Faraday as a
Discoverer,' it seemed to me that the labours, and points of character,
of so great a worker and so good a man should not be allowed to vanish
from the public eye. I therefore willingly fell in with the proposal of
my Publishers to issue a new edition of the little book.

Royal Institution, February, 1884.

Preface to the second edition.

The experimental researches of Faraday are so voluminous, their
descriptions are so detailed, and their wealth of illustration is so
great, as to render it a heavy labour to master them. The multiplication
of proofs, necessary and interesting when the new truths had to be
established, are however less needful now when these truths have become
household words in science. I have therefore tried in the following
pages to compress the body, without injury to the spirit, of these
imperishable investigations, and to present them in a form which should
be convenient and useful to the student of the present day.

While I write, the volumes of the Life of Faraday by Dr. Bence Jones
have reached my hands. To them the reader must refer for an account of
Faraday's private relations. A hasty glance at the work shows me that
the reverent devotion of the biographer has turned to admirable account
the materials at his command.

The work of Dr. Bence Jones enables me to correct a statement regarding
Wollaston's and Faraday's respective relations to the discovery of
Magnetic Rotation. Wollaston's idea was to make the wire carrying a
current rotate round its own axis: an idea afterwards realised by the
celebrated Ampere. Faraday's discovery was to make the wire carrying the
current revolve round the pole of a magnet and the reverse.

John Tyndall. Royal Institution: December, 1869.


Chapter 1.

     Parentage: introduction to the royal institution: earliest
     experiments: first royal society paper: marriage.

It has been thought desirable to give you and the world some image
of MICHAEL FARADAY, as a scientific investigator and discoverer. The
attempt to respond to this desire has been to me a labour of difficulty,
if also a labour of love. For however well acquainted I may be with the
researches and discoveries of that great master--however numerous the
illustrations which occur to me of the loftiness of Faraday's character
and the beauty of his life--still to grasp him and his researches as a
whole; to seize upon the ideas which guided him, and connected them; to
gain entrance into that strong and active brain, and read from it the
riddle of the world--this is a work not easy of performance, and all but
impossible amid the distraction of duties of another kind. That I should
at one period or another speak to you regarding Faraday and his work is
natural, if not inevitable; but I did not expect to be called upon to
speak so soon. Still the bare suggestion that this is the fit and proper
time for speech sent me immediately to my task: from it I have returned
with such results as I could gather, and also with the wish that those
results were more worthy than they are of the greatness of my theme.

It is not my intention to lay before you a life of Faraday in the
ordinary acceptation of the term. The duty I have to perform is to give
you some notion of what he has done in the world; dwelling incidentally
on the spirit in which his work was executed, and introducing such
personal traits as may be necessary to the completion of your picture of
the philosopher, though by no means adequate to give you a complete idea
of the man.

The newspapers have already informed you that Michael Faraday was born
at Newington Butts, on September 22, 1791, and that he died at Hampton
Court, on August 25, 1867. Believing, as I do, in the general truth
of the doctrine of hereditary transmission--sharing the opinion of Mr.
Carlyle, that 'a really able man never proceeded from entirely stupid
parents'--I once used the privilege of my intimacy with Mr. Faraday
to ask him whether his parents showed any signs of unusual ability. He
could remember none. His father, I believe, was a great sufferer during
the latter years of his life, and this might have masked whatever
intellectual power he possessed. When thirteen years old, that is to
say in 1804, Faraday was apprenticed to a bookseller and bookbinder in
Blandford Street, Manchester Square: here he spent eight years of his
life, after which he worked as a journeyman elsewhere.

You have also heard the account of Faraday's first contact with the
Royal Institution; that he was introduced by one of the members to Sir
Humphry Davy's last lectures, that he took notes of those lectures;
wrote them fairly out, and sent them to Davy, entreating him at the
same time to enable him to quit trade, which he detested, and to pursue
science, which he loved. Davy was helpful to the young man, and this
should never be forgotten: he at once wrote to Faraday, and afterwards,
when an opportunity occurred, made him his assistant.[1] Mr. Gassiot has
lately favoured me with the following reminiscence of this time:--

'Clapham Common, Surrey,

'November 28, 1867.

'My Dear Tyndall,--Sir H. Davy was accustomed to call on the late Mr.
Pepys, in the Poultry, on his way to the London Institution, of which
Pepys was one of the original managers; the latter told me that on one
occasion Sir H. Davy, showing him a letter, said: "Pepys, what am I
to do, here is a letter from a young man named Faraday; he has been
attending my lectures, and wants me to give him employment at the Royal
Institution--what can I do?" "Do?" replied Pepys, "put him to wash
bottles; if he is good for anything he will do it directly, if he
refuses he is good for nothing." "No, no," replied Davy; "we must try
him with something better than that." The result was, that Davy engaged
him to assist in the Laboratory at weekly wages.

'Davy held the joint office of Professor of Chemistry and Director of
the Laboratory; he ultimately gave up the former to the late Professor
Brande, but he insisted that Faraday should be appointed Director of
the Laboratory, and, as Faraday told me, this enabled him on subsequent
occasions to hold a definite position in the Institution, in which he
was always supported by Davy. I believe he held that office to the last.

'Believe me, my dear Tyndall, yours truly,

'J. P. Gassiot.

'Dr. Tyndall.'

From a letter written by Faraday himself soon after his appointment as
Davy's assistant, I extract the following account of his introduction to
the Royal Institution:--

'London, Sept. 13, 1813.

'As for myself, I am absent (from home) nearly day and night, except
occasional calls, and it is likely shall shortly be absent entirely,
but this (having nothing more to say, and at the request of my mother) I
will explain to you. I was formerly a bookseller and binder, but am now
turned philosopher,[2] which happened thus:--Whilst an apprentice, I,
for amusement, learnt a little chemistry and other parts of philosophy,
and felt an eager desire to proceed in that way further. After being
a journeyman for six months, under a disagreeable master, I gave up
my business, and through the interest of a Sir H. Davy, filled the
situation of chemical assistant to the Royal Institution of Great
Britain, in which office I now remain; and where I am constantly
employed in observing the works of nature, and tracing the manner in
which she directs the order and arrangement of the world. I have lately
had proposals made to me by Sir Humphry Davy to accompany him in his
travels through Europe and Asia, as philosophical assistant. If I go at
all I expect it will be in October next--about the end; and my absence
from home will perhaps be as long as three years. But as yet all is

This account is supplemented by the following letter, written by Faraday
to his friend De la Rive,[3] on the occasion of the death of Mrs.
Marcet. The letter is dated September 2, 1858:--

'My Dear Friend,--Your subject interested me deeply every way; for Mrs.
Marcet was a good friend to me, as she must have been to many of the
human race. I entered the shop of a bookseller and bookbinder at the age
of thirteen, in the year 1804, remained there eight years, and during
the chief part of my time bound books. Now it was in those books, in the
hours after work, that I found the beginning of my philosophy.

There were two that especially helped me, the "Encyclopaedia
Britannica," from which I gained my first notions of electricity, and
Mrs. Marcet's "Conversation on Chemistry," which gave me my foundation
in that science.

'Do not suppose that I was a very deep thinker, or was marked as a
precocious person. I was a very lively imaginative person, and could
believe in the "Arabian Nights" as easily as in the "Encyclopaedia."
But facts were important to me, and saved me. I could trust a fact, and
always cross-examined an assertion. So when I questioned Mrs. Marcet's
book by such little experiments as I could find means to perform, and
found it true to the facts as I could understand them, I felt that I
had got hold of an anchor in chemical knowledge, and clung fast to
it. Thence my deep veneration for Mrs. Marcet--first as one who had
conferred great personal good and pleasure on me; and then as one able
to convey the truth and principle of those boundless fields of knowledge
which concern natural things to the young, untaught, and inquiring mind.

'You may imagine my delight when I came to know Mrs. Marcet personally;
how often I cast my thoughts backward, delighting to connect the
past and the present; how often, when sending a paper to her as a
thank-offering, I thought of my first instructress, and such like
thoughts will remain with me.

'I have some such thoughts even as regards your own father; who was,
I may say, the first who personally at Geneva, and afterwards by
correspondence, encouraged, and by that sustained me.'

Twelve or thirteen years ago Mr. Faraday and myself quitted the
Institution one evening together, to pay a visit to our friend Grove in
Baker Street. He took my arm at the door, and, pressing it to his
side in his warm genial way, said, 'Come, Tyndall, I will now show you
something that will interest you.' We walked northwards, passed the
house of Mr. Babbage, which drew forth a reference to the famous evening
parties once assembled there. We reached Blandford Street, and after a
little looking about he paused before a stationer's shop, and then went
in. On entering the shop, his usual animation seemed doubled; he looked
rapidly at everything it contained. To the left on entering was a door,
through which he looked down into a little room, with a window in front
facing Blandford Street. Drawing me towards him, he said eagerly, 'Look
there, Tyndall, that was my working-place. I bound books in that
little nook.' A respectable-looking woman stood behind the counter: his
conversation with me was too low to be heard by her, and he now turned
to the counter to buy some cards as an excuse for our being there. He
asked the woman her name--her predecessor's name--his predecessor's
name. 'That won't do,' he said, with good-humoured impatience; 'who was
his predecessor?' 'Mr. Riebau,' she replied, and immediately added,
as if suddenly recollecting herself, 'He, sir, was the master of Sir
Charles Faraday.' 'Nonsense!' he responded, 'there is no such person.'
Great was her delight when I told her the name of her visitor; but
she assured me that as soon as she saw him running about the shop, she
felt-though she did not know why--that it must be 'Sir Charles Faraday.'

Faraday did, as you know, accompany Davy to Rome: he was re-engaged
by the managers of the Royal Institution on May 15, 1815. Here he made
rapid progress in chemistry, and after a time was entrusted with easy
analyses by Davy. In those days the Royal Institution published 'The
Quarterly Journal of Science,' the precursor of our own 'Proceedings.'
Faraday's first contribution to science appeared in that journal in
1816. It was an analysis of some caustic lime from Tuscany, which had
been sent to Davy by the Duchess of Montrose. Between this period and
1818 various notes and short papers were published by Faraday. In 1818
he experimented upon 'Sounding Flames.' Professor Auguste De la Rive
had investigated those sounding flames, and had applied to them an
explanation which completely accounted for a class of sounds discovered
by himself, but did not account for those known to his predecessors. By
a few simple and conclusive experiments, Faraday proved the explanation
insufficient. It is an epoch in the life of a young man when he finds
himself correcting a person of eminence, and in Faraday's case, where
its effect was to develop a modest self-trust, such an event could not
fail to act profitably.

From time to time between 1818 and 1820 Faraday published scientific
notes and notices of minor weight. At this time he was acquiring, not
producing; working hard for his master and storing and strengthening
his own mind. He assisted Mr. Brande in his lectures, and so quietly,
skilfully, and modestly was his work done, that Mr. Brande's vocation at
the time was pronounced 'lecturing on velvet.' In 1820 Faraday published
a chemical paper 'on two new compounds of chlorine and carbon, and on
a new compound of iodine, carbon, and hydrogen.' This paper was read
before the Royal Society on December 21, 1820, and it was the first of
his that was honoured with a place in the 'Philosophical Transactions.'

On June 12, 1821, he married, and obtained leave to bring his young wife
into his rooms at the Royal Institution. There for forty-six years
they lived together, occupying the suite of apartments which had been
previously in the successive occupancy of Young, Davy, and Brande. At
the time of her marriage Mrs. Faraday was twenty-one years of age, he
being nearly thirty. Regarding this marriage I will at present limit
myself to quoting an entry written in Faraday's own hand in his book of
diplomas, which caught my eye while in his company some years ago. It
ran thus:--

'25th January, 1847. 'Amongst these records and events, I here insert
the date of one which, as a source of honour and happiness, far exceeds
all the rest. We were married on June 12, 1821.

'M. Faraday.'

Then follows the copy of the minutes, dated May 21, 1821, which gave him
additional rooms, and thus enabled him to bring his wife to the Royal
Institution. A feature of Faraday's character which I have often noticed
makes itself apparent in this entry. In his relations to his wife he
added chivalry to affection.

Footnotes to Chapter 1

     [1] Here is Davy's recommendation of Faraday, presented to
     the managers of the Royal Institution, at a meeting on the
     18th of March, 1813, Charles Hatchett, Esq., in the chair:--

     'Sir Humphry Davy has the honour to inform the managers that
     he has found a person who is desirous to occupy the
     situation in the Institution lately filled by William Payne.
     His name is Michael Faraday. He is a youth of twenty-two
     years of age.  As far as Sir H. Davy has been able to
     observe or ascertain, he appears well fitted for the
     situation.  His habits seem good; his disposition active and
     cheerful, and his manner intelligent.  He is willing to
     engage himself on the same terms as given to Mr. Payne at
     the time of quitting the Institution.

     'Resolved,--That Michael Faraday be engaged to fill the
     situation lately occupied by Mr. Payne, on the same terms.'

     [2] Faraday loved this word and employed it to the last; he
     had an intense dislike to the modern term physicist.

     [3] To whom I am indebted for a copy of the original letter.

Chapter 2.

     Early researches: magnetic rotations: liquefaction of gases:
     heavy glass: Charles Anderson: contributions to physics.

Oersted, in 1820, discovered the action of a voltaic current on a
magnetic needle; and immediately afterwards the splendid intellect of
Ampere succeeded in showing that every magnetic phenomenon then known
might be reduced to the mutual action of electric currents. The subject
occupied all men's thoughts: and in this country Dr. Wollaston sought
to convert the deflection of the needle by the current into a permanent
rotation of the needle round the current. He also hoped to produce the
reciprocal effect of causing a current to rotate round a magnet. In
the early part of 1821, Wollaston attempted to realise this idea in
the presence of Sir Humphry Davy in the laboratory of the Royal
Institution.[1] This was well calculated to attract Faraday's attention
to the subject. He read much about it; and in the months of July,
August, and September he wrote a 'history of the progress of
electro-magnetism,' which he published in Thomson's 'Annals of
Philosophy.' Soon afterwards he took up the subject of 'Magnetic
Rotations,' and on the morning of Christmas-day, 1821, he called his
wife to witness, for the first time, the revolution of a magnetic needle
round an electric current. Incidental to the 'historic sketch,' he
repeated almost all the experiments there referred to; and these, added
to his own subsequent work, made him practical master of all that was
then known regarding the voltaic current. In 1821, he also touched
upon a subject which subsequently received his closer attention--the
vaporization of mercury at common temperatures; and immediately
afterwards conducted, in company with Mr. Stodart, experiments on the
alloys of steel. He was accustomed in after years to present to his
friends razors formed from one of the alloys then discovered.

During Faraday's hours of liberty from other duties, he took up subjects
of inquiry for himself; and in the spring of 1823, thus self-prompted,
he began the examination of a substance which had long been regarded as
the chemical element chlorine, in a solid form, but which Sir Humphry
Davy, in 1810, had proved to be a hydrate of chlorine, that is, a
compound of chlorine and water. Faraday first analysed this hydrate, and
wrote out an account of its composition. This account was looked over
by Davy, who suggested the heating of the hydrate under pressure in a
sealed glass tube. This was done. The hydrate fused at a blood-heat, the
tube became filled with a yellow atmosphere, and was afterwards found
to contain two liquid substances. Dr. Paris happened to enter the
laboratory while Faraday was at work. Seeing the oily liquid in his
tube, he rallied the young chemist for his carelessness in employing
soiled vessels. On filing off the end of the tube, its contents exploded
and the oily matter vanished. Early next morning, Dr. Paris received the
following note:--

'Dear Sir,--The oil you noticed yesterday turns out to be liquid

'Yours faithfully,

'M. Faraday.'[2]

The gas had been liquefied by its own pressure. Faraday then tried
compression with a syringe, and succeeded thus in liquefying the gas.

To the published account of this experiment Davy added the following
note:--'In desiring Mr. Faraday to expose the hydrate of chlorine in
a closed glass tube, it occurred to me that one of three things would
happen: that decomposition of water would occur;... or that the chlorine
would separate in a fluid state.' Davy, moreover, immediately applied
the method of self-compressing atmosphere to the liquefaction of
muriatic gas. Faraday continued the experiments, and succeeded in
reducing a number of gases till then deemed permanent to the liquid
condition. In 1844 he returned to the subject, and considerably expanded
its limits. These important investigations established the fact
that gases are but the vapours of liquids possessing a very low
boiling-point, and gave a sure basis to our views of molecular
aggregation. The account of the first investigation was read before the
Royal Society on April 10, 1823, and was published, in Faraday's name,
in the 'Philosophical Transactions.' The second memoir was sent to
the Royal Society on December 19, 1844. I may add that while he was
conducting his first experiments on the liquefaction of gases, thirteen
pieces of glass were on one occasion driven by an explosion into
Faraday's eye.

Some small notices and papers, including the observation that glass
readily changes colour in sunlight, follow here. In 1825 and 1826
Faraday published papers in the 'Philosophical Transactions' on 'new
compounds of carbon and hydrogen,' and on 'sulphonaphthalic acid.' In
the former of these papers he announced the discovery of Benzol, which,
in the hands of modern chemists, has become the foundation of our
splendid aniline dyes. But he swerved incessantly from chemistry into
physics; and in 1826 we find him engaged in investigating the limits
of vaporization, and showing, by exceedingly strong and apparently
conclusive arguments, that even in the case of mercury such a limit
exists; much more he conceived it to be certain that our atmosphere does
not contain the vapour of the fixed constituents of the earth's crust.
This question, I may say, is likely to remain an open one. Dr. Rankine,
for example, has lately drawn attention to the odour of certain metals;
whence comes this odour, if it be not from the vapour of the metal?

In 1825 Faraday became a member of a committee, to which Sir John
Herschel and Mr. Dollond also belonged, appointed by the Royal Society
to examine, and if possible improve, the manufacture of glass for
optical purposes. Their experiments continued till 1829, when the
account of them constituted the subject of a 'Bakerian Lecture.' This
lectureship, founded in 1774 by Henry Baker, Esq., of the Strand,
London, provides that every year a lecture shall be given before the
Royal Society, the sum of four pounds being paid to the lecturer. The
Bakerian Lecture, however, has long since passed from the region of
pay to that of honour, papers of mark only being chosen for it by
the council of the Society. Faraday's first Bakerian Lecture, 'On the
Manufacture of Glass for Optical Purposes,' was delivered at the
close of 1829. It is a most elaborate and conscientious description of
processes, precautions, and results: the details were so exact and
so minute, and the paper consequently so long, that three successive
sittings of the Royal Society were taken up by the delivery of the
lecture.[3] This glass did not turn out to be of important practical
use, but it happened afterwards to be the foundation of two of Faraday's
greatest discoveries.[4]

The experiments here referred to were commenced at the Falcon Glass
Works, on the premises of Messrs. Green and Pellatt, but Faraday could
not conveniently attend to them there. In 1827, therefore, a furnace was
erected in the yard of the Royal Institution; and it was at this time,
and with a view of assisting him at the furnace, that Faraday engaged
Sergeant Anderson, of the Royal Artillery, the respectable, truthful,
and altogether trustworthy man whose appearance here is so fresh in our
memories. Anderson continued to be the reverential helper of Faraday and
the faithful servant of this Institution for nearly forty years.[5]

In 1831 Faraday published a paper, 'On a peculiar class of Optical
Deceptions,' to which I believe the beautiful optical toy called the
Chromatrope owes its origin. In the same year he published a paper on
Vibrating Surfaces, in which he solved an acoustical problem which,
though of extreme simplicity when solved, appears to have baffled many
eminent men. The problem was to account for the fact that light bodies,
such as the seed of lycopodium, collected at the vibrating parts of
sounding plates, while sand ran to the nodal lines. Faraday showed that
the light bodies were entangled in the little whirlwinds formed in the
air over the places of vibration, and through which the heavier sand
was readily projected. Faraday's resources as an experimentalist were so
wonderful, and his delight in experiment was so great, that he sometimes
almost ran into excess in this direction. I have heard him say that this
paper on vibrating surfaces was too heavily laden with experiments.

Footnotes to Chapter 2

     [1] The reader's attention is directed to the concluding
     paragraph of the 'Preface to the Second Edition written in
     December, 1869. Also to the Life of Faraday by Dr. Bence
     Jones, vol. i. p. 338 et seq.

     [2] Paris: Life of Davy, p. 391.

     [3] Viz., November 19, December 3 and 10.

     [4] I make the following extract from a letter from Sir John
     Herschel, written to me from Collingwood, on the 3rd of
     November, 1867:--'I will take this opportunity to mention
     that I believe myself to have originated the suggestion of
     the employment of borate of lead for optical purposes.  It
     was somewhere in the year 1822, as well as I can recollect,
     that I mentioned it to Sir James (then Mr.) South; and, in
     consequence, the trial was made in his laboratory in
     Blackman Street, by precipitating and working a large
     quantity of borate of lead, and fusing it under a muffle in
     a porcelain evaporating dish.  A very limpid (though
     slightly yellow) glass resulted, the refractive index 1.866!
     (which you will find set down in my table of refractive
     indices in my article "Light," Encyclopaedia Metropolitana).
     It was, however, too soft for optical use as an object-
     glass.  This Faraday overcame, at least to a considerable
     degree, by the introduction of silica.'

     [5] Regarding Anderson, Faraday writes thus in 1845:--'I
     cannot resist the occasion that is thus offered to me of
     mentioning the name of Mr. Anderson, who came to me as an
     assistant in the glass experiments, and has remained ever
     since in the laboratory of the Royal Institution.  He
     assisted me in all the researches into which I have entered
     since that time; and to his care, steadiness, exactitude,
     and faithfulness in the performance of all that has been
     committed to his charge, I am much indebted.--M. F.' (Exp.
     Researches, vol. iii. p. 3, footnote.)

Chapter 3.

     Discovery of Magneto-electricity: Explanation of Argo's
     magnetism of rotation: Terrestrial magneto-electric
     induction: The extra current.

The work thus referred to, though sufficient of itself to secure no
mean scientific reputation, forms but the vestibule of Faraday's
achievements. He had been engaged within these walls for eighteen years.
During part of the time he had drunk in knowledge from Davy, and during
the remainder he continually exercised his capacity for independent
inquiry. In 1831 we have him at the climax of his intellectual strength,
forty years of age, stored with knowledge and full of original power.
Through reading, lecturing, and experimenting, he had become thoroughly
familiar with electrical science: he saw where light was needed and
expansion possible. The phenomena of ordinary electric induction
belonged, as it were, to the alphabet of his knowledge: he knew that
under ordinary circumstances the presence of an electrified body was
sufficient to excite, by induction, an unelectrified body. He knew that
the wire which carried an electric current was an electrified body, and
still that all attempts had failed to make it excite in other wires a
state similar to its own.

What was the reason of this failure? Faraday never could work from the
experiments of others, however clearly described. He knew well that
from every experiment issues a kind of radiation, luminous in different
degrees to different minds, and he hardly trusted himself to reason upon
an experiment that he had not seen. In the autumn of 1831 he began to
repeat the experiments with electric currents, which, up to that time,
had produced no positive result. And here, for the sake of younger
inquirers, if not for the sake of us all, it is worth while to dwell for
a moment on a power which Faraday possessed in an extraordinary degree.
He united vast strength with perfect flexibility. His momentum was that
of a river, which combines weight and directness with the ability to
yield to the flexures of its bed. The intentness of his vision in any
direction did not apparently diminish his power of perception in other
directions; and when he attacked a subject, expecting results he had the
faculty of keeping his mind alert, so that results different from those
which he expected should not escape him through preoccupation.

He began his experiments 'on the induction of electric currents' by
composing a helix of two insulated wires which were wound side by side
round the same wooden cylinder. One of these wires he connected with
a voltaic battery of ten cells, and the other with a sensitive
galvanometer. When connection with the battery was made, and while the
current flowed, no effect whatever was observed at the galvanometer. But
he never accepted an experimental result, until he had applied to it the
utmost power at his command. He raised his battery from 10 cells to 120
cells, but without avail. The current flowed calmly through the battery
wire without producing, during its flow, any sensible result upon the

'During its flow,' and this was the time when an effect was
expected--but here Faraday's power of lateral vision, separating, as it
were, from the line of expectation, came into play--he noticed that a
feeble movement of the needle always occurred at the moment when he made
contact with the battery; that the needle would afterwards return to
its former position and remain quietly there unaffected by the flowing
current. At the moment, however, when the circuit was interrupted the
needle again moved, and in a direction opposed to that observed on the
completion of the circuit.

This result, and others of a similar kind, led him to the conclusion
'that the battery current through the one wire did in reality induce a
similar current through the other; but that it continued for an instant
only, and partook more of the nature of the electric wave from a common
Leyden jar than of the current from a voltaic battery.' The momentary
currents thus generated were called induced currents, while the current
which generated them was called the inducing current. It was immediately
proved that the current generated at making the circuit was always
opposed in direction to its generator, while that developed on the
rupture of the circuit coincided in direction with the inducing current.
It appeared as if the current on its first rush through the primary wire
sought a purchase in the secondary one, and, by a kind of kick, impelled
backward through the latter an electric wave, which subsided as soon as
the primary current was fully established.

Faraday, for a time, believed that the secondary wire, though quiescent
when the primary current had been once established, was not in its
natural condition, its return to that condition being declared by the
current observed at breaking the circuit. He called this hypothetical
state of the wire the electro-tonic state: he afterwards abandoned
this hypothesis, but seemed to return to it in later life. The term
electro-tonic is also preserved by Professor Du Bois Reymond to express
a certain electric condition of the nerves, and Professor Clerk Maxwell
has ably defined and illustrated the hypothesis in the Tenth Volume of
the 'Transactions of the Cambridge Philosophical Society.'

The mere approach of a wire forming a closed curve to a second wire
through which a voltaic current flowed was then shown by Faraday to be
sufficient to arouse in the neutral wire an induced current, opposed
in direction to the inducing current; the withdrawal of the wire also
generated a current having the same direction as the inducing current;
those currents existed only during the time of approach or withdrawal,
and when neither the primary nor the secondary wire was in motion,
no matter how close their proximity might be, no induced current was

Faraday has been called a purely inductive philosopher. A great deal of
nonsense is, I fear, uttered in this land of England about induction and
deduction. Some profess to befriend the one, some the other, while
the real vocation of an investigator, like Faraday, consists in the
incessant marriage of both. He was at this time full of the theory of
Ampere, and it cannot be doubted that numbers of his experiments were
executed merely to test his deductions from that theory. Starting from
the discovery of Oersted, the illustrious French philosopher had shown
that all the phenomena of magnetism then known might be reduced to the
mutual attractions and repulsions of electric currents. Magnetism had
been produced from electricity, and Faraday, who all his life long
entertained a strong belief in such reciprocal actions, now attempted to
effect the evolution of electricity from magnetism. Round a welded iron
ring he placed two distinct coils of covered wire, causing the coils to
occupy opposite halves of the ring. Connecting the ends of one of
the coils with a galvanometer, he found that the moment the ring
was magnetised, by sending a current through the other coil, the
galvanometer needle whirled round four or five times in succession. The
action, as before, was that of a pulse, which vanished immediately.
On interrupting the circuit, a whirl of the needle in the opposite
direction occurred. It was only during the time of magnetization or
demagnetization that these effects were produced. The induced currents
declared a change of condition only, and they vanished the moment the
act of magnetization or demagnetization was complete.

The effects obtained with the welded ring were also obtained with
straight bars of iron. Whether the bars were magnetised by the electric
current, or were excited by the contact of permanent steel magnets,
induced currents were always generated during the rise, and during the
subsidence of the magnetism. The use of iron was then abandoned, and the
same effects were obtained by merely thrusting a permanent steel magnet
into a coil of wire. A rush of electricity through the coil accompanied
the insertion of the magnet; an equal rush in the opposite direction
accompanied its withdrawal. The precision with which Faraday describes
these results, and the completeness with which he defines the boundaries
of his facts, are wonderful. The magnet, for example, must not be passed
quite through the coil, but only half through; for if passed wholly
through, the needle is stopped as by a blow, and then he shows how this
blow results from a reversal of the electric wave in the helix. He next
operated with the powerful permanent magnet of the Royal Society, and
obtained with it, in an exalted degree, all the foregoing phenomena.

And now he turned the light of these discoveries upon the darkest
physical phenomenon of that day. Arago had discovered, in 1824, that
a disk of non-magnetic metal had the power of bringing a vibrating
magnetic needle suspended over it rapidly to rest; and that on causing
the disk to rotate the magnetic needle rotated along with it. When both
were quiescent, there was not the slightest measurable attraction or
repulsion exerted between the needle and the disk; still when in motion
the disk was competent to drag after it, not only a light needle, but
a heavy magnet. The question had been probed and investigated with
admirable skill both by Arago and Ampere, and Poisson had published a
theoretic memoir on the subject; but no cause could be assigned for so
extraordinary an action. It had also been examined in this country by
two celebrated men, Mr. Babbage and Sir John Herschel; but it still
remained a mystery. Faraday always recommended the suspension of
judgment in cases of doubt. 'I have always admired,' he says, 'the
prudence and philosophical reserve shown by M. Arago in resisting the
temptation to give a theory of the effect he had discovered, so long
as he could not devise one which was perfect in its application, and in
refusing to assent to the imperfect theories of others.' Now, however,
the time for theory had come. Faraday saw mentally the rotating disk,
under the operation of the magnet, flooded with his induced currents,
and from the known laws of interaction between currents and magnets he
hoped to deduce the motion observed by Arago. That hope he realised,
showing by actual experiment that when his disk rotated currents
passed through it, their position and direction being such as must, in
accordance with the established laws of electro-magnetic action, produce
the observed rotation.

Introducing the edge of his disk between the poles of the large
horseshoe magnet of the Royal Society, and connecting the axis and the
edge of the disk, each by a wire with a galvanometer, he obtained, when
the disk was turned round, a constant flow of electricity. The direction
of the current was determined by the direction of the motion, the
current being reversed when the rotation was reversed. He now states the
law which rules the production of currents in both disks and wires, and
in so doing uses, for the first time, a phrase which has since become
famous. When iron filings are scattered over a magnet, the particles
of iron arrange themselves in certain determinate lines called magnetic
curves. In 1831, Faraday for the first time called these curves 'lines
of magnetic force'; and he showed that to produce induced currents
neither approach to nor withdrawal from a magnetic source, or centre, or
pole, was essential, but that it was only necessary to cut appropriately
the lines of magnetic force. Faraday's first paper on Magneto-electric
Induction, which I have here endeavoured to condense, was read before
the Royal Society on the 24th of November, 1831.

On January 12, 1832, he communicated to the Royal Society a second
paper on Terrestrial Magneto-electric Induction, which was chosen as
the Bakerian Lecture for the year. He placed a bar of iron in a coil of
wire, and lifting the bar into the direction of the dipping needle, he
excited by this action a current in the coil. On reversing the bar,
a current in the opposite direction rushed through the wire. The same
effect was produced when, on holding the helix in the line of dip, a bar
of iron was thrust into it. Here, however, the earth acted on the coil
through the intermediation of the bar of iron. He abandoned the bar and
simply set a copper plate spinning in a horizontal plane; he knew that
the earth's lines of magnetic force then crossed the plate at an angle
of about 70degrees. When the plate spun round, the lines of force were
intersected and induced currents generated, which produced their proper
effect when carried from the plate to the galvanometer. 'When the plate
was in the magnetic meridian, or in any other plane coinciding with
the magnetic dip, then its rotation produced no effect upon the

At the suggestion of a mind fruitful in suggestions of a profound and
philosophic character--I mean that of Sir John Herschel--Mr. Barlow, of
Woolwich, had experimented with a rotating iron shell. Mr. Christie had
also performed an elaborate series of experiments on a rotating iron
disk. Both of them had found that when in rotation the body exercised
a peculiar action upon the magnetic needle, deflecting it in a manner
which was not observed during quiescence; but neither of them was aware
at the time of the agent which produced this extraordinary deflection.
They ascribed it to some change in the magnetism of the iron shell and

But Faraday at once saw that his induced currents must come into play
here, and he immediately obtained them from an iron disk. With a hollow
brass ball, moreover, he produced the effects obtained by Mr. Barlow.
Iron was in no way necessary: the only condition of success was that
the rotating body should be of a character to admit of the formation of
currents in its substance: it must, in other words, be a conductor of
electricity. The higher the conducting power the more copious were the
currents. He now passes from his little brass globe to the globe of the
earth. He plays like a magician with the earth's magnetism. He sees the
invisible lines along which its magnetic action is exerted, and sweeping
his wand across these lines evokes this new power. Placing a simple loop
of wire round a magnetic needle he bends its upper portion to the west:
the north pole of the needle immediately swerves to the east: he bends
his loop to the east, and the north pole moves to the west. Suspending a
common bar magnet in a vertical position, he causes it to spin round its
own axis. Its pole being connected with one end of a galvanometer
wire, and its equator with the other end, electricity rushes round the
galvanometer from the rotating magnet. He remarks upon the 'singular
independence' of the magnetism and the body of the magnet which carries
it. The steel behaves as if it were isolated from its own magnetism.

And then his thoughts suddenly widen, and he asks himself whether the
rotating earth does not generate induced currents as it turns round its
axis from west to east. In his experiment with the twirling magnet the
galvanometer wire remained at rest; one portion of the circuit was in
motion relatively to another portion. But in the case of the twirling
planet the galvanometer wire would necessarily be carried along with the
earth; there would be no relative motion. What must be the consequence?
Take the case of a telegraph wire with its two terminal plates dipped
into the earth, and suppose the wire to lie in the magnetic meridian.
The ground underneath the wire is influenced like the wire itself by the
earth's rotation; if a current from south to north be generated in the
wire, a similar current from south to north would be generated in the
earth under the wire; these currents would run against the same terminal
plate, and thus neutralise each other.

This inference appears inevitable, but his profound vision perceived
its possible invalidity. He saw that it was at least possible that the
difference of conducting power between the earth and the wire might
give one an advantage over the other, and that thus a residual or
differential current might be obtained. He combined wires of different
materials, and caused them to act in opposition to each other, but
found the combination ineffectual. The more copious flow in the better
conductor was exactly counterbalanced by the resistance of the worse.
Still, though experiment was thus emphatic, he would clear his mind of
all discomfort by operating on the earth itself. He went to the round
lake near Kensington Palace, and stretched 480 feet of copper wire,
north and south, over the lake, causing plates soldered to the wire
at its ends to dip into the water. The copper wire was severed at the
middle, and the severed ends connected with a galvanometer. No effect
whatever was observed. But though quiescent water gave no effect, moving
water might. He therefore worked at London Bridge for three days during
the ebb and flow of the tide, but without any satisfactory result. Still
he urges, 'Theoretically it seems a necessary consequence, that where
water is flowing there electric currents should be formed. If a line
be imagined passing from Dover to Calais through the sea, and returning
through the land, beneath the water, to Dover, it traces out a circuit
of conducting matter one part of which, when the water moves up or down
the channel, is cutting the magnetic curves of the earth, whilst the
other is relatively at rest.... There is every reason to believe that
currents do run in the general direction of the circuit described,
either one way or the other, according as the passage of the waters is
up or down the channel.' This was written before the submarine cable was
thought of, and he once informed me that actual observation upon
that cable had been found to be in accordance with his theoretic

Three years subsequent to the publication of these researches--that is
to say, on January 29, 1835--Faraday read before the Royal Society
a paper 'On the influence by induction of an electric current upon
itself.' A shock and spark of a peculiar character had been observed
by a young man named William Jenkin, who must have been a youth of some
scientific promise, but who, as Faraday once informed me, was dissuaded
by his own father from having anything to do with science. The
investigation of the fact noticed by Mr. Jenkin led Faraday to the
discovery of the extra current, or the current induced in the primary
wire itself at the moments of making and breaking contact, the phenomena
of which he described and illustrated in the beautiful and exhaustive
paper referred to.

Seven-and-thirty years have passed since the discovery of
magneto-electricity; but, if we except the extra current, until quite
recently nothing of moment was added to the subject. Faraday entertained
the opinion that the discoverer of a great law or principle had a right
to the 'spoils'--this was his term--arising from its illustration; and
guided by the principle he had discovered, his wonderful mind, aided by
his wonderful ten fingers, overran in a single autumn this vast domain,
and hardly left behind him the shred of a fact to be gathered by his

And here the question may arise in some minds, What is the use of
it all? The answer is, that if man's intellectual nature thirsts for
knowledge, then knowledge is useful because it satisfies this thirst. If
you demand practical ends, you must, I think, expand your definition of
the term practical, and make it include all that elevates and enlightens
the intellect, as well as all that ministers to the bodily health and
comfort of men. Still, if needed, an answer of another kind might be
given to the question 'What is its use?' As far as electricity has been
applied for medical purposes, it has been almost exclusively Faraday's
electricity. You have noticed those lines of wire which cross the
streets of London. It is Faraday's currents that speed from place to
place through these wires. Approaching the point of Dungeness, the
mariner sees an unusually brilliant light, and from the noble phares
of La Heve the same light flashes across the sea. These are Faraday's
sparks exalted by suitable machinery to sunlike splendour. At the
present moment the Board of Trade and the Brethren of the Trinity House,
as well as the Commissioners of Northern Lights, are contemplating the
introduction of the Magneto-electric Light at numerous points upon our
coasts; and future generations will be able to refer to those guiding
stars in answer to the question. What has been the practical use of the
labours of Faraday? But I would again emphatically say, that his work
needs no such justification, and that if he had allowed his vision to
be disturbed by considerations regarding the practical use of his
discoveries, those discoveries would never have been made by him. 'I
have rather,' he writes in 1831, 'been desirous of discovering new
facts and new relations dependent on magneto-electric induction, than
of exalting the force of those already obtained; being assured that the
latter would find their full development hereafter.'

In 1817, when lecturing before a private society in London on the
element chlorine, Faraday thus expressed himself with reference to this
question of utility. 'Before leaving this subject, I will point out the
history of this substance, as an answer to those who are in the habit of
saying to every new fact. "What is its use?" Dr. Franklin says to such,
"What is the use of an infant?" The answer of the experimentalist is,
"Endeavour to make it useful." When Scheele discovered this substance,
it appeared to have no use; it was in its infancy and useless state, but
having grown up to maturity, witness its powers, and see what endeavours
to make it useful have done.'

Footnote to Chapter 3

     [1] I am indebted to a friend for the following exquisite
     morsel:--'A short time after the publication of Faraday's
     first researches in magneto-electricity, he attended the
     meeting of the British Association at Oxford, in 1832.  On
     this occasion he was requested by some of the authorities to
     repeat the celebrated experiment of eliciting a spark from a
     magnet, employing for this purpose the large magnet in the
     Ashmolean Museum.  To this he consented, and a large party
     assembled to witness the experiments, which, I need not say,
     were perfectly successful.  Whilst he was repeating them a
     dignitary of the University entered the room, and addressing
     himself to Professor Daniell, who was standing near Faraday,
     inquired what was going on.  The Professor explained to him
     as popularly as possible this striking result of Faraday's
     great discovery. The Dean listened with attention and looked
     earnestly at the brilliant spark, but a moment after he
     assumed a serious countenance and shook his head; "I am
     sorry for it," said he, as he walked away; in the middle of
     the room he stopped for a moment and repeated, "I am sorry
     for it:" then walking towards the door, when the handle was
     in his hand he turned round and said, "Indeed I am sorry for
     it; it is putting new arms into the hands of the
     incendiary."  This occurred a short time after the papers
     had been filled with the doings of the hayrick burners.  An
     erroneous statement of what fell from the Dean's mouth was
     printed at the time in one of the Oxford papers. He is there
     wrongly stated to have said, "It is putting new arms into
     the hands of the infidel."'

Chapter 4.

     Points of Character.

A point highly illustrative of the character of Faraday now comes into
view. He gave an account of his discovery of Magneto-electricity in a
letter to his friend M. Hachette, of Paris, who communicated the letter
to the Academy of Sciences. The letter was translated and published; and
immediately afterwards two distinguished Italian philosophers took up
the subject, made numerous experiments, and published their results
before the complete memoirs of Faraday had met the public eye. This
evidently irritated him. He reprinted the paper of the learned Italians
in the 'Philosophical Magazine,' accompanied by sharp critical notes
from himself. He also wrote a letter dated Dec. 1, 1832, to Gay Lussac,
who was then one of the editors of the 'Annales de Chimie,' in which
he analysed the results of the Italian philosophers, pointing out their
errors, and defending himself from what he regarded as imputations on
his character. The style of this letter is unexceptionable, for Faraday
could not write otherwise than as a gentleman; but the letter shows that
had he willed it he could have hit hard. We have heard much of Faraday's
gentleness and sweetness and tenderness. It is all true, but it is very
incomplete. You cannot resolve a powerful nature into these elements,
and Faraday's character would have been less admirable than it was had
it not embraced forces and tendencies to which the silky adjectives
'gentle' and 'tender' would by no means apply. Underneath his sweetness
and gentleness was the heat of a volcano. He was a man of excitable and
fiery nature; but through high self-discipline he had converted the fire
into a central glow and motive power of life, instead of permitting it
to waste itself in useless passion. 'He that is slow to anger,' saith
the sage, 'is greater than the mighty, and he that ruleth his own spirit
than he that taketh a city.' Faraday was not slow to anger, but he
completely ruled his own spirit, and thus, though he took no cities, he
captivated all hearts.

As already intimated, Faraday had contributed many of his minor
papers--including his first analysis of caustic lime--to the 'Quarterly
Journal of Science.' In 1832, he collected those papers and others
together in a small octavo volume, labelled them, and prefaced them

'PAPERS, NOTES, NOTICES, &c., &c.,published in octavo, up to 1832. M.

'Papers of mine, published in octavo, in the "Quarterly Journal of
Science," and elsewhere, since the time that Sir H. Davy encouraged me
to write the analysis of caustic lime.

'Some, I think (at this date), are good; others moderate; and some bad.
But I have put all into the volume, because of the utility they have
been of to me--and none more than the bad--in pointing out to me in
future, or rather, after times, the faults it became me to watch and to

'As I never looked over one of my papers a year after it was written
without believing both in philosophy and manner it could have been much
better done, I still hope the collection may be of great use to me.

'M. Faraday.

'Aug. 18, 1832.'

'None more than the bad!' This is a bit of Faraday's innermost nature;
and as I read these words I am almost constrained to retract what I have
said regarding the fire and excitability of his character. But is he not
all the more admirable, through his ability to tone down and subdue that
fire and that excitability, so as to render himself able to write thus
as a little child? I once took the liberty of censuring the conclusion
of a letter of his to the Dean of St. Paul's. He subscribed himself
'humbly yours,' and I objected to the adverb. 'Well, but, Tyndall,' he
said, 'I am humble; and still it would be a great mistake to think that
I am not also proud.' This duality ran through his character. A democrat
in his defiance of all authority which unfairly limited his freedom of
thought, and still ready to stoop in reverence to all that was really
worthy of reverence, in the customs of the world or the characters of

And here, as well as elsewhere, may be introduced a letter which bears
upon this question of self-control, written long years subsequent to the
period at which we have now arrived. I had been at Glasgow in 1855, at
a meeting of the British Association. On a certain day, I communicated a
paper to the physical section, which was followed by a brisk discussion.
Men of great distinction took part in it, the late Dr. Whewell among the
number, and it waxed warm on both sides. I was by no means content
with this discussion; and least of all, with my own part in it. This
discontent affected me for some days, during which I wrote to
Faraday, giving him no details, but expressing, in a general way, my
dissatisfaction. I give the following extract from his reply:--

'Sydenham, Oct. 6, 1855.

'My Dear Tyndall,--These great meetings, of which I think very well
altogether, advance science chiefly by bringing scientific men together
and making them to know and be friends with each other; and I am sorry
when that is not the effect in every part of their course. I know
nothing except from what you tell me, for I have not yet looked at the
reports of the proceedings; but let me, as an old man, who ought by this
time to have profited by experience, say that when I was younger I found
I often misinterpreted the intentions of people, and found they did not
mean what at the time I supposed they meant; and, further, that as a
general rule, it was better to be a little dull of apprehension where
phrases seemed to imply pique, and quick in perception when, on the
contrary, they seemed to imply kindly feeling. The real truth never
fails ultimately to appear; and opposing parties, if wrong, are sooner
convinced when replied to forbearingly, than when overwhelmed. All
I mean to say is, that it is better to be blind to the results of
partisanship, and quick to see good will. One has more happiness in
oneself in endeavouring to follow the things that make for peace. You
can hardly imagine how often I have been heated in private when opposed,
as I have thought, unjustly and superciliously, and yet I have striven,
and succeeded, I hope, in keeping down replies of the like kind. And I
know I have never lost by it. I would not say all this to you did I not
esteem you as a true philosopher and friend.[1]

'Yours, very truly,

'M. Faraday.'

Footnote to Chapter 4

     [1] Faraday would have been rejoiced to learn that, during
     its last meeting at Dundee, the British Association
     illustrated in a striking manner the function which he here
     describes as its principal one. In my own case, a brotherly
     welcome was everywhere manifested. In fact, the differences
     of really honourable and sane men are never beyond healing.

Chapter 5.

     Identity of electricities; first researches on

I have already once used the word 'discomfort' in reference to the
occasional state of Faraday's mind when experimenting. It was to him a
discomfort to reason upon data which admitted of doubt. He hated what he
called 'doubtful knowledge,' and ever tended either to transfer it
into the region of undoubtful knowledge, or of certain and definite
ignorance. Pretence of all kinds, whether in life or in philosophy, was
hateful to him. He wished to know the reality of our nescience as well
as of our science. 'Be one thing or the other,' he seemed to say to
an unproved hypothesis; 'come out as a solid truth, or disappear as a
convicted lie.' After making the great discovery which I have attempted
to describe, a doubt seemed to beset him as regards the identity of
electricities. 'Is it right,' he seemed to ask, 'to call this agency
which I have discovered electricity at all? Are there perfectly
conclusive grounds for believing that the electricity of the
machine, the pile, the gymnotus and torpedo, magneto-electricity and
thermo-electricity, are merely different manifestations of one and the
same agent?' To answer this question to his own satisfaction he formally
reviewed the knowledge of that day. He added to it new experiments
of his own, and finally decided in favour of the 'Identity of
Electricities.' His paper upon this subject was read before the Royal
Society on January 10 and 17, 1833.

After he had proved to his own satisfaction the identity of
electricities, he tried to compare them quantitatively together. The
terms quantity and intensity, which Faraday constantly used, need a word
of explanation here. He might charge a single Leyden jar by twenty turns
of his machine, or he might charge a battery of ten jars by the same
number of turns. The quantity in both cases would be sensibly the same,
but the intensity of the single jar would be the greatest, for here the
electricity would be less diffused. Faraday first satisfied himself that
the needle of his galvanometer was caused to swing through the same arc
by the same quantity of machine electricity, whether it was condensed
in a small battery or diffused over a large one. Thus the electricity
developed by thirty turns of his machine produced, under very variable
conditions of battery surface, the same deflection. Hence he inferred
the possibility of comparing, as regards quantity, electricities which
differ greatly from each other in intensity. His object now is to
compare frictional with voltaic electricity. Moistening bibulous paper
with the iodide of potassium--a favourite test of his--and subjecting
it to the action of machine electricity, he decomposed the iodide, and
formed a brown spot where the iodine was liberated. Then he immersed
two wires, one of zinc, the other of platinum, each 1/13th of an inch
in diameter, to a depth of 5/8ths of an inch in acidulated water during
eight beats of his watch, or 3/20ths of a second; and found that the
needle of his galvanometer swung through the same arc, and coloured
his moistened paper to the same extent, as thirty turns of his large
electrical machine. Twenty-eight turns of the machine produced an effect
distinctly less than that produced by his two wires. Now, the quantity
of water decomposed by the wires in this experiment totally eluded
observation; it was immeasurably small; and still that amount of
decomposition involved the development of a quantity of electric force
which, if applied in a proper form, would kill a rat, and no man would
like to bear it.

In his subsequent researches 'On the absolute Quantity of Electricity
associated with the Particles or Atoms of matter,' he endeavours to give
an idea of the amount of electrical force involved in the decomposition
of a single grain of water. He is almost afraid to mention it, for he
estimates it at 800,000 discharges of his large Leyden battery. This, if
concentrated in a single discharge, would be equal to a very great flash
of lightning; while the chemical action of a single grain of water
on four grains of zinc would yield electricity equal in quantity to a
powerful thunderstorm. Thus his mind rises from the minute to the
vast, expanding involuntarily from the smallest laboratory fact till it
embraces the largest and grandest natural phenomena.[1]

In reality, however, he is at this time only clearing his way, and
he continues laboriously to clear it for some time afterwards. He is
digging the shaft, guided by that instinct towards the mineral lode
which was to him a rod of divination. 'Er riecht die Wahrheit,' said the
lamented Kohlrausch, an eminent German, once in my hearing:--'He smells
the truth.' His eyes are now steadily fixed on this wonderful voltaic
current, and he must learn more of its mode of transmission.

On May 23, 1833, he read a paper before the Royal Society 'On a new
Law of Electric Conduction.' He found that, though the current passed
through water, it did not pass through ice:--why not, since they are
one and the same substance? Some years subsequently he answered this
question by saying that the liquid condition enables the molecule
of water to turn round so as to place itself in the proper line of
polarization, while the rigidity of the solid condition prevents this
arrangement. This polar arrangement must precede decomposition, and
decomposition is an accompaniment of conduction. He then passed on to
other substances; to oxides and chlorides, and iodides, and salts, and
sulphurets, and found them all insulators when solid, and conductors
when fused. In all cases, moreover, except one--and this exception he
thought might be apparent only--he found the passage of the current
across the fused compound to be accompanied by its decomposition. Is
then the act of decomposition essential to the act of conduction in
these bodies? Even recently this question was warmly contested. Faraday
was very cautious latterly in expressing himself upon this subject;
but as a matter of fact he held that an infinitesimal quantity of
electricity might pass through a compound liquid without producing its
decomposition. De la Rive, who has been a great worker on the chemical
phenomena of the pile, is very emphatic on the other side. Experiment,
according to him and others, establishes in the most conclusive manner
that no trace of electricity can pass through a liquid compound without
producing its equivalent decomposition.[2]

Faraday has now got fairly entangled amid the chemical phenomena of the
pile, and here his previous training under Davy must have been of the
most important service to him. Why, he asks, should decomposition thus
take place?--what force is it that wrenches the locked constituents
of these compounds asunder? On the 20th of June, 1833, he read a paper
before the Royal Society 'On Electro-chemical Decomposition,' in which
he seeks to answer these questions. The notion had been entertained
that the poles, as they are called, of the decomposing cell, or in other
words the surfaces by which the current enters and quits the liquid,
exercised electric attractions upon the constituents of the liquid and
tore them asunder. Faraday combats this notion with extreme vigour.
Litmus reveals, as you know, the action of an acid by turning red,
turmeric reveals the action of an alkali by turning brown. Sulphate of
soda, you know, is a salt compounded of the alkali soda and sulphuric
acid. The voltaic current passing through a solution of this salt
so decomposes it, that sulphuric acid appears at one pole of the
decomposing cell and alkali at the other. Faraday steeped a piece of
litmus paper and a piece of turmeric paper in a solution of sulphate of
soda: placing each of them upon a separate plate of glass, he connected
them together by means of a string moistened with the same solution.
He then attached one of them to the positive conductor of an electric
machine, and the other to the gas-pipes of this building. These he
called his 'discharging train.' On turning the machine the electricity
passed from paper to paper through the string, which might be varied in
length from a few inches to seventy feet without changing the result.
The first paper was reddened, declaring the presence of sulphuric acid;
the second was browned, declaring the presence of the alkali soda. The
dissolved salt, therefore, arranged in this fashion, was decomposed by
the machine, exactly as it would have been by the voltaic current.
When instead of using the positive conductor he used the negative,
the positions of the acid and alkali were reversed. Thus he satisfied
himself that chemical decomposition by the machine is obedient to the
laws which rule decomposition by the pile.

And now he gradually abolishes those so-called poles, to the attraction
of which electric decomposition had been ascribed. He connected a piece
of turmeric paper moistened with the sulphate of soda with the positive
conductor of his machine; then he placed a metallic point in connection
with his discharging train opposite the moist paper, so that the
electricity should discharge through the air towards the point. The
turning of the machine caused the corners of the piece of turmeric paper
opposite to the point to turn brown, thus declaring the presence of
alkali. He changed the turmeric for litmus paper, and placed it, not
in connection with his conductor, but with his discharging train, a
metallic point connected with the conductor being fixed at a couple of
inches from the paper; on turning the machine, acid was liberated at
the edges and corners of the litmus. He then placed a series of pointed
pieces of paper, each separate piece being composed of two halves,
one of litmus and the other of turmeric paper, and all moistened with
sulphate of soda, in the line of the current from the machine. The
pieces of paper were separated from each other by spaces of air. The
machine was turned; and it was always found that at the point where the
electricity entered the paper, litmus was reddened, and at the point
where it quitted the paper, turmeric was browned. 'Here,' he urges,
'the poles are entirely abandoned, but we have still electrochemical
decomposition.' It is evident to him that instead of being attracted by
the poles, the bodies separated are ejected by the current. The effects
thus obtained with poles of air he also succeeded in obtaining with
poles of water. The advance in Faraday's own ideas made at this time is
indicated by the word 'ejected.' He afterwards reiterates this view:
the evolved substances are expelled from the decomposing body, and 'not
drawn out by an attraction.

Having abolished this idea of polar attraction, he proceeds to enunciate
and develop a theory of his own. He refers to Davy's celebrated Bakerian
Lecture, given in 1806, which he says 'is almost entirely occupied in
the consideration of electrochemical decompositions.' The facts recorded
in that lecture Faraday regards as of the utmost value. But 'the mode
of action by which the effects take place is stated very generally;
so generally, indeed, that probably a dozen precise schemes of
electrochemical action might be drawn up, differing essentially from
each other, yet all agreeing with the statement there given.'

It appears to me that these words might with justice be applied to
Faraday's own researches at this time. They furnish us with results of
permanent value; but little help can be found in the theory advanced
to account for them. It would, perhaps, be more correct to say that
the theory itself is hardly presentable in any tangible form to the
intellect. Faraday looks, and rightly looks, into the heart of the
decomposing body itself; he sees, and rightly sees, active within it
the forces which produce the decomposition, and he rejects, and rightly
rejects, the notion of external attraction; but beyond the hypothesis of
decompositions and recompositions, enunciated and developed by Grothuss
and Davy, he does not, I think, help us to any definite conception as
to how the force reaches the decomposing mass and acts within it. Nor,
indeed, can this be done, until we know the true physical process which
underlies what we call an electric current.

Faraday conceives of that current as 'an axis of power having contrary
forces exactly equal in amount in opposite directions'; but this
definition, though much quoted and circulated, teaches us nothing
regarding the current. An 'axis' here can only mean a direction; and
what we want to be able to conceive of is, not the axis along which the
power acts, but the nature and mode of action of the power itself. He
objects to the vagueness of De la Rive; but the fact is, that both
he and De la Rive labour under the same difficulty. Neither wishes
to commit himself to the notion of a current compounded of two
electricities flowing in two opposite directions: but the time had
not come, nor is it yet come, for the displacement of this provisional
fiction by the true mechanical conception. Still, however indistinct the
theoretic notions of Faraday at this time may be, the facts which are
rising before him and around him are leading him gradually, but surely,
to results of incalculable importance in relation to the philosophy of
the voltaic pile.

He had always some great object of research in view, but in the pursuit
of it he frequently alighted on facts of collateral interest, to examine
which he sometimes turned aside from his direct course. Thus we find the
series of his researches on electrochemical decomposition interrupted
by an inquiry into 'the power of metals and other solids, to induce the
combination of gaseous bodies.' This inquiry, which was received by the
Royal Society on Nov. 30, 1833, though not so important as those
which precede and follow it, illustrates throughout his strength as an
experimenter. The power of spongy platinum to cause the combination of
oxygen and hydrogen had been discovered by Dobereiner in 1823, and had
been applied by him in the construction of his well-known philosophic
lamp. It was shown subsequently by Dulong and Thenard that even a
platinum wire, when perfectly cleansed, may be raised to incandescence
by its action on a jet of cold hydrogen.

In his experiments on the decomposition of water, Faraday found that
the positive platinum plate of the decomposing cell possessed in
an extraordinary degree the power of causing oxygen and hydrogen to
combine. He traced the cause of this to the perfect cleanness of
the positive plate. Against it was liberated oxygen, which, with the
powerful affinity of the 'nascent state,' swept away all impurity from
the surface against which it was liberated. The bubbles of gas liberated
on one of the platinum plates or wires of a decomposing cell are always
much smaller, and they rise in much more rapid succession than those
from the other. Knowing that oxygen is sixteen times heavier than
hydrogen, I have more than once concluded, and, I fear, led others
into the error of concluding, that the smaller and more quickly rising
bubbles must belong to the lighter gas. The thing appeared so obvious
that I did not give myself the trouble of looking at the battery, which
would at once have told me the nature of the gas. But Faraday would
never have been satisfied with a deduction if he could have reduced it
to a fact. And he has taught me that the fact here is the direct reverse
of what I supposed it to be. The small bubbles are oxygen, and their
smallness is due to the perfect cleanness of the surface on which they
are liberated. The hydrogen adhering to the other electrode swells
into large bubbles, which rise in much slower succession; but when the
current is reversed, the hydrogen is liberated upon the cleansed wire,
and then its bubbles also become small.

Footnotes to Chapter 5

     [1] Buff finds the quantity of electricity associated with
     one milligramme of hydrogen in water to be equal to 45,480
     charges of a Leyden jar, with a height of 480 millimetres,
     and a diameter of 160 millimetres.  Weber and Kohlrausch
     have calculated that, if the quantity of electricity
     associated with one milligramme of hydrogen in water were
     diffused over a cloud at a height of 1000 metres above the
     earth, it would exert upon an equal quantity of the opposite
     electricity at the earth's surface an attractive force of
     2,268,000 kilogrammes.  (Electrolytische Maasbestimmungen,
     1856, p. 262.)

     [2] Faraday, sa Vie et ses Travaux, p. 20.

Chapter 6.

     Laws of electro-chemical decomposition.

In our conceptions and reasonings regarding the forces of nature,
we perpetually make use of symbols which, when they possess a high
representative value, we dignify with the name of theories. Thus,
prompted by certain analogies, we ascribe electrical phenomena to the
action of a peculiar fluid, sometimes flowing, sometimes at rest. Such
conceptions have their advantages and their disadvantages; they afford
peaceful lodging to the intellect for a time, but they also circumscribe
it, and by-and-by, when the mind has grown too large for its lodging, it
often finds difficulty in breaking down the walls of what has become its
prison instead of its home.[1]

No man ever felt this tyranny of symbols more deeply than Faraday, and
no man was ever more assiduous than he to liberate himself from them,
and the terms which suggested them. Calling Dr. Whewell to his aid
in 1833, he endeavoured to displace by others all terms tainted by
a foregone conclusion. His paper on Electro-chemical Decomposition,
received by the Royal Society on January 9, 1834, opens with the
proposal of a new terminology. He would avoid the word 'current' if he
could.[2] He does abandon the word 'poles' as applied to the ends of
a decomposing cell, because it suggests the idea of attraction,
substituting for it the perfectly natural term Electrodes. He applied
the term Electrolyte to every substance which can be decomposed by the
current, and the act of decomposition he called Electrolysis. All these
terms have become current in science. He called the positive electrode
the Anode, and the negative one the Cathode, but these terms, though
frequently used, have not enjoyed the same currency as the others. The
terms Anion and Cation, which he applied to the constituents of the
decomposed electrolyte, and the term Ion, which included both anions and
cations, are still less frequently employed.

Faraday now passes from terminology to research; he sees the necessity
of quantitative determinations, and seeks to supply himself with a
measure of voltaic electricity. This he finds in the quantity of water
decomposed by the current. He tests this measure in all possible ways,
to assure himself that no error can arise from its employment. He
places in the course of one and the same current a series of cells with
electrodes of different sizes, some of them plates of platinum, others
merely platinum wires, and collects the gas liberated on each distinct
pair of electrodes. He finds the quantity of gas to be the same for all.
Thus he concludes that when the same quantity of electricity is caused
to pass through a series of cells containing acidulated water, the
electro-chemical action is independent of the size of the electrodes.[3]
He next proves that variations in intensity do not interfere with this
equality of action. Whether his battery is charged with strong acid
or with weak; whether it consists of five pairs or of fifty pairs; in
short, whatever be its source, when the same current is sent through his
series of cells the same amount of decomposition takes place in all. He
next assures himself that the strength or weakness of his dilute acid
does not interfere with this law. Sending the same current through
a series of cells containing mixtures of sulphuric acid and water of
different strengths, he finds, however the proportion of acid to water
might vary, the same amount of gas to be collected in all the cells.
A crowd of facts of this character forced upon Faraday's mind the
conclusion that the amount of electro-chemical decomposition depends,
not upon the size of the electrodes, not upon the intensity of the
current, not upon the strength of the solution, but solely upon the
quantity of electricity which passes through the cell. The quantity
of electricity he concludes is proportional to the amount of chemical
action. On this law Faraday based the construction of his celebrated
Voltameter, or Measure of Voltaic electricity.

But before he can apply this measure he must clear his ground of
numerous possible sources of error. The decomposition of his acidulated
water is certainly a direct result of the current; but as the varied and
important researches of MM. Becquerel, De la Rive, and others had shown,
there are also secondary actions which may materially interfere with and
complicate the pure action of the current. These actions may occur in
two ways: either the liberated ion may seize upon the electrode against
which it is set free, forming a chemical compound with that electrode;
or it may seize upon the substance of the electrolyte itself, and thus
introduce into the circuit chemical actions over and above those due to
the current. Faraday subjected these secondary actions to an exhaustive
examination. Instructed by his experiments, and rendered competent by
them to distinguish between primary and secondary results, he proceeds
to establish the doctrine of 'Definite Electro-chemical Decomposition.'

Into the same circuit he introduced his voltameter, which consisted of
a graduated tube filled with acidulated water and provided with platinum
plates for the decomposition of the water, and also a cell containing
chloride of tin. Experiments already referred to had taught him that
this substance, though an insulator when solid, is a conductor when
fused, the passage of the current being always accompanied by the
decomposition of the chloride. He wished to ascertain what relation this
decomposition bore to that of the water in his voltameter.

Completing his circuit, he permitted the current to continue until 'a
reasonable quantity of gas' was collected in the voltameter. The circuit
was then broken, and the quantity of tin liberated compared with the
quantity of gas. The weight of the former was 3.2 grains, that of the
latter 0.49742 of a grain. Oxygen, as you know, unites with hydrogen in
the proportion of 8 to 1, to form water. Calling the equivalent, or as
it is sometimes called, the atomic weight of hydrogen 1, that of oxygen
is 8; that of water is consequently 8 + 1 or 9. Now if the quantity of
water decomposed in Faraday's experiment be represented by the number 9,
or in other words by the equivalent of water, then the quantity of tin
liberated from the fused chloride is found by an easy calculation to be
57.9, which is almost exactly the chemical equivalent of tin. Thus both
the water and the chloride were broken up in proportions expressed
by their respective equivalents. The amount of electric force which
wrenched asunder the constituents of the molecule of water was
competent, and neither more nor less than competent, to wrench asunder
the constituents of the molecules of the chloride of tin. The fact
is typical. With the indications of his voltameter he compared the
decompositions of other substances, both singly and in series. He
submitted his conclusions to numberless tests. He purposely introduced
secondary actions. He endeavoured to hamper the fulfilment of those laws
which it was the intense desire of his mind to see established. But
from all these difficulties emerged the golden truth, that under every
variety of circumstances the decompositions of the voltaic current are
as definite in their character as those chemical combinations which gave
birth to the atomic theory. This law of Electro-chemical Decomposition
ranks, in point of importance, with that of Definite Combining
Proportions in chemistry.

Footnotes to Chapter 6

     [1] I copy these words from the printed abstract of a Friday
     evening lecture, given by myself, because they remind me of
     Faraday's voice, responding to the utterance by an emphatic
     'hear! hear!'--Proceedings of the Royal Institution, vol.
     ii. p. 132.

     [2] In 1838 he expresses himself thus:--'The word current is
     so expressive in common language that when applied in the
     consideration of electrical phenomena, we can hardly divest
     it sufficiently of its meaning, or prevent our minds from
     being prejudiced by it.'--Exp. Resear., vol. i. p. 515. ($

     [3] This conclusion needs qualification.  Faraday overlooked
     the part played by ozone.

Chapter 7.

     Origin of power in the voltaic pile.

In one of the public areas of the town of Como stands a statue with no
inscription on its pedestal, save that of a single name, 'Volta.' The
bearer of that name occupies a place for ever memorable in the history
of science. To him we owe the discovery of the voltaic pile, to which
for a brief interval we must now turn our attention.

The objects of scientific thought being the passionless laws and
phenomena of external nature, one might suppose that their investigation
and discussion would be completely withdrawn from the region of the
feelings, and pursued by the cold dry light of the intellect alone.
This, however, is not always the case. Man carries his heart with him
into all his works. You cannot separate the moral and emotional from the
intellectual; and thus it is that the discussion of a point of science
may rise to the heat of a battle-field. The fight between the rival
optical theories of Emission and Undulation was of this fierce
character; and scarcely less fierce for many years was the contest as
to the origin and maintenance of the power of the voltaic pile. Volta
himself supposed it to reside in the Contact of different metals.
Here was exerted his 'Electro-motive force,' which tore the combined
electricities asunder and drove them as currents in opposite directions.
To render the circulation of the current possible, it was necessary to
connect the metals by a moist conductor; for when any two metals were
connected by a third, their relation to each other was such that a
complete neutralisation of the electric motion was the result. Volta's
theory of metallic contact was so clear, so beautiful, and apparently
so complete, that the best intellects of Europe accepted it as the
expression of natural law.

Volta himself knew nothing of the chemical phenomena of the pile; but
as soon as these became known, suggestions and intimations appeared that
chemical action, and not metallic contact, might be the real source of
voltaic electricity. This idea was expressed by Fabroni in Italy, and
by Wollaston in England. It was developed and maintained by those
'admirable electricians,' Becquerel, of Paris, and De la Rive, of
Geneva. The Contact Theory, on the other hand, received its chief
development and illustration in Germany. It was long the scientific
creed of the great chemists and natural philosophers of that country,
and to the present hour there may be some of them unable to liberate
themselves from the fascination of their first-love.

After the researches which I have endeavoured to place before you, it
was impossible for Faraday to avoid taking a side in this controversy.
He did so in a paper 'On the Electricity of the Voltaic Pile,' received
by the Royal Society on the 7th of April, 1834. His position in the
controversy might have been predicted. He saw chemical effects going
hand in hand with electrical effects, the one being proportional to the
other; and, in the paper now before us, he proved that when the former
was excluded, the latter were sought for in vain. He produced a current
without metallic contact; he discovered liquids which, though competent
to transmit the feeblest currents--competent therefore to allow the
electricity of contact to flow through them if it were able to form a
current--were absolutely powerless when chemically inactive.

One of the very few experimental mistakes of Faraday occurred in
this investigation. He thought that with a single voltaic cell he
had obtained the spark before the metals touched, but he subsequently
discovered his error. To enable the voltaic spark to pass through air
before the terminals of the battery were united, it was necessary
to exalt the electro-motive force of the battery by multiplying its
elements; but all the elements Faraday possessed were unequal to the
task of urging the spark across the shortest measurable space of air.
Nor, indeed, could the action of the battery, the different metals of
which were in contact with each other, decide the point in question.
Still, as regards the identity of electricities from various sources,
it was at that day of great importance to determine whether or not
the voltaic current could jump, as a spark, across an interval before
contact. Faraday's friend, Mr. Gassiot, solved this problem. He erected
a battery of 4000 cells, and with it urged a stream of sparks from
terminal to terminal, when separated from each other by a measurable
space of air.

The memoir on the 'Electricity of the Voltaic Pile,' published in 1834,
appears to have produced but little impression upon the supporters of
the contact theory. These indeed were men of too great intellectual
weight and insight lightly to take up, or lightly to abandon a theory.
Faraday therefore resumed the attack in a paper, communicated to the
Royal Society on the 6th of February, 1840. In this paper he hampered
his antagonists by a crowd of adverse experiments. He hung difficulty
after difficulty about the neck of the contact theory, until in its
efforts to escape from his assaults it so changed its character as to
become a thing totally different from the theory proposed by Volta. The
more persistently it was defended, however, the more clearly did it
show itself to be a congeries of devices, bearing the stamp of dialectic
skill rather than of natural truth.

In conclusion, Faraday brought to bear upon it an argument which, had
its full weight and purport been understood at the time, would have
instantly decided the controversy. 'The contact theory,' he urged,
'assumed that a force which is able to overcome powerful resistance,
as for instance that of the conductors, good or bad, through which the
current passes, and that again of the electrolytic action where bodies
are decomposed by it, can arise out of nothing; that, without any change
in the acting matter, or the consumption of any generating force, a
current shall be produced which shall go on for ever against a constant
resistance, or only be stopped, as in the voltaic trough, by the ruins
which its exertion has heaped up in its own course. This would indeed be
a creation of power, and is like no other force in nature. We have many
processes by which the form of the power may be so changed, that an
apparent conversion of one into the other takes place. So we can change
chemical force into the electric current, or the current into chemical
force. The beautiful experiments of Seebeck and Peltier show the
convertibility of heat and electricity; and others by Oersted and myself
show the convertibility of electricity and magnetism. But in no case,
not even in those of the Gymnotus and Torpedo, is there a pure creation
or a production of power without a corresponding exhaustion of something
to supply it.'

These words were published more than two years before either Mayer
printed his brief but celebrated essay on the Forces of Inorganic
Nature, or Mr. Joule published his first famous experiments on the
Mechanical Value of Heat. They illustrate the fact that before any great
scientific principle receives distinct enunciation by individuals,
it dwells more or less clearly in the general scientific mind. The
intellectual plateau is already high, and our discoverers are those who,
like peaks above the plateau, rise a little above the general level of
thought at the time.

But many years prior even to the foregoing utterance of Faraday, a
similar argument had been employed. I quote here with equal pleasure
and admiration the following passage written by Dr. Roget so far back as
1829. Speaking of the contact theory, he says:--'If there could exist a
power having the property ascribed to it by the hypothesis, namely,
that of giving continual impulse to a fluid in one constant direction,
without being exhausted by its own action, it would differ essentially
from all the known powers in nature. All the powers and sources of
motion with the operation of which we are acquainted, when producing
these peculiar effects, are expended in the same proportion as those
effects are produced; and hence arises the impossibility of obtaining by
their agency a perpetual effect; or in other words a perpetual motion.
But the electro-motive force, ascribed by Volta to the metals, when in
contact, is a force which, as long as a free course is allowed to the
electricity it sets in motion, is never expended, and continues to be
excited with undiminished power in the production of a never-ceasing
effect. Against the truth of such a supposition the probabilities are
all but infinite.' When this argument, which he employed independently,
had clearly fixed itself in his mind, Faraday never cared to experiment
further on the source of electricity in the voltaic pile. The argument
appeared to him 'to remove the foundation itself of the contact theory,'
and he afterwards let it crumble down in peace.[1]

Footnote to Chapter 7

     [1] To account for the electric current, which was really
     the core of the whole discussion, Faraday demonstrated the
     impotence of the Contact Theory as then enunciated and
     defended.  Still, it is certain that two different metals,
     when brought into contact, charge themselves, the one with
     positive and the other with negative electricity.  I had the
     pleasure of going over this ground with Kohlrausch in 1849,
     and his experiments left no doubt upon my mind that the
     contact electricity of Volta was a reality, though it could
     produce no current.  With one of the beautiful instruments
     devised by himself, Sir William Thomson has rendered this
     point capable of sure and easy demonstration; and he and
     others now hold what may be called a contact theory, which,
     while it takes into account the action of the metals, also
     embraces the chemical phenomena of the circuit.  Helmholtz,
     I believe, was the first to give the contact theory this new
     form, in his celebrated essay, Ueber die Erhaltung der
     Kraft, p. 45.

Chapter 8.

     Researches on frictional electricity: induction: conduction:
     specific inductive capacity: theory of contiguous particles.

The burst of power which had filled the four preceding years with an
amount of experimental work unparalleled in the history of science
partially subsided in 1835, and the only scientific paper contributed
by Faraday in that year was a comparatively unimportant one, 'On an
improved Form of the Voltaic Battery.' He brooded for a time: his
experiments on electrolysis had long filled his mind; he looked, as
already stated, into the very heart of the electrolyte, endeavouring to
render the play of its atoms visible to his mental eye. He had no doubt
that in this case what is called 'the electric current' was propagated
from particle to particle of the electrolyte; he accepted the doctrine
of decomposition and recomposition which, according to Grothuss and
Davy, ran from electrode to electrode. And the thought impressed him
more and more that ordinary electric induction was also transmitted and
sustained by the action of 'contiguous particles.'

His first great paper on frictional electricity was sent to the Royal
Society on November 30, 1837. We here find him face to face with an idea
which beset his mind throughout his whole subsequent life,--the idea of
action at a distance. It perplexed and bewildered him. In his attempts
to get rid of this perplexity, he was often unconsciously rebelling
against the limitations of the intellect itself. He loved to quote
Newton upon this point; over and over again he introduces his memorable
words, 'That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to
matter, so that one body may act upon another at a distance through a
vacuum and without the mediation of anything else, by and through which
this action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me
so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical
matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it. Gravity
must be caused by an agent acting constantly according to certain laws;
but whether this agent be material or immaterial, I have left to the
consideration of my readers.'[1]

Faraday does not see the same difficulty in his contiguous particles.
And yet, by transferring the conception from masses to particles, we
simply lessen size and distance, but we do not alter the quality of the
conception. Whatever difficulty the mind experiences in conceiving
of action at sensible distances, besets it also when it attempts to
conceive of action at insensible distances. Still the investigation of
the point whether electric and magnetic effects were wrought out through
the intervention of contiguous particles or not, had a physical interest
altogether apart from the metaphysical difficulty. Faraday grapples with
the subject experimentally. By simple intuition he sees that action at a
distance must be exerted in straight lines. Gravity, he knows, will not
turn a corner, but exerts its pull along a right line; hence his aim and
effort to ascertain whether electric action ever takes place in curved
lines. This once proved, it would follow that the action is carried on
by means of a medium surrounding the electrified bodies. His experiments
in 1837 reduced, in his opinion, this point of demonstration. He then
found that he could electrify, by induction, an insulated sphere placed
completely in the shadow of a body which screened it from direct action.
He pictured the lines of electric force bending round the edges of the
screen, and reuniting on the other side of it; and he proved that in
many cases the augmentation of the distance between his insulated sphere
and the inducing body, instead of lessening, increased the charge of
the sphere. This he ascribed to the coalescence of the lines of electric
force at some distance behind the screen.

Faraday's theoretic views on this subject have not received general
acceptance, but they drove him to experiment, and experiment with him
was always prolific of results. By suitable arrangements he placed a
metallic sphere in the middle of a large hollow sphere, leaving a space
of something more than half an inch between them. The interior
sphere was insulated, the external one uninsulated. To the former he
communicated a definite charge of electricity. It acted by induction
upon the concave surface of the latter, and he examined how this act of
induction was effected by placing insulators of various kinds between
the two spheres. He tried gases, liquids, and solids, but the solids
alone gave him positive results. He constructed two instruments of the
foregoing description, equal in size and similar in form. The interior
sphere of each communicated with the external air by a brass stem ending
in a knob. The apparatus was virtually a Leyden jar, the two coatings of
which were the two spheres, with a thick and variable insulator between
them. The amount of charge in each jar was determined by bringing
a proof-plane into contact with its knob and measuring by a torsion
balance the charge taken away. He first charged one of his instruments,
and then dividing the charge with the other, found that when air
intervened in both cases the charge was equally divided. But when
shellac, sulphur, or spermaceti was interposed between the two spheres
of one jar, while air occupied this interval in the other, then he found
that the instrument occupied by the 'solid dielectric' takes more than
half the original charge. A portion of the charge was absorbed by
the dielectric itself. The electricity took time to penetrate the
dielectric. Immediately after the discharge of the apparatus, no trace
of electricity was found upon its knob. But after a time electricity was
found there, the charge having gradually returned from the dielectric
in which it had been lodged. Different insulators possess this power
of permitting the charge to enter them in different degrees. Faraday
figured their particles as polarized, and he concluded that the force of
induction is propagated from particle to particle of the dielectric from
the inner sphere to the outer one. This power of propagation possessed
by insulators he called their 'Specific Inductive Capacity.'

Faraday visualizes with the utmost clearness the state of his contiguous
particles; one after another they become charged, each succeeding
particle depending for its charge upon its predecessor. And now he seeks
to break down the wall of partition between conductors and insulators.
'Can we not,' he says, 'by a gradual chain of association carry up
discharge from its occurrence in air through spermaceti and water, to
solutions, and then on to chlorides, oxides, and metals, without any
essential change in its character?' Even copper, he urges, offers
a resistance to the transmission of electricity. The action of its
particles differs from those of an insulator only in degree. They are
charged like the particles of the insulator, but they discharge with
greater ease and rapidity; and this rapidity of molecular discharge is
what we call conduction. Conduction then is always preceded by atomic
induction; and when, through some quality of the body which Faraday
does not define, the atomic discharge is rendered slow and difficult,
conduction passes into insulation.

Though they are often obscure, a fine vein of philosophic thought runs
through those investigations. The mind of the philosopher dwells amid
those agencies which underlie the visible phenomena of Induction and
Conduction; and he tries by the strong light of his imagination to see
the very molecules of his dielectrics. It would, however, be easy to
criticise these researches, easy to show the looseness, and sometimes
the inaccuracy, of the phraseology employed; but this critical spirit
will get little good out of Faraday. Rather let those who ponder his
works seek to realise the object he set before him, not permitting
his occasional vagueness to interfere with their appreciation of his
speculations. We may see the ripples, and eddies, and vortices of a
flowing stream, without being able to resolve all these motions into
their constituent elements; and so it sometimes strikes me that Faraday
clearly saw the play of fluids and ethers and atoms, though his
previous training did not enable him to resolve what he saw into its
constituents, or describe it in a manner satisfactory to a mind versed
in mechanics. And then again occur, I confess, dark sayings, difficult
to be understood, which disturb my confidence in this conclusion. It
must, however, always be remembered that he works at the very boundaries
of our knowledge, and that his mind habitually dwells in the 'boundless
contiguity of shade' by which that knowledge is surrounded.

In the researches now under review the ratio of speculation and
reasoning to experiment is far higher than in any of Faraday's previous
works. Amid much that is entangled and dark we have flashes of wondrous
insight and utterances which seem less the product of reasoning than of
revelation. I will confine myself here to one example of this divining
power. By his most ingenious device of a rapidly rotating mirror,
Wheatstone had proved that electricity required time to pass through
a wire, the current reaching the middle of the wire later than its
two ends. 'If,' says Faraday, 'the two ends of the wire in Professor
Wheatstone's experiments were immediately connected with two large
insulated metallic surfaces exposed to the air, so that the primary act
of induction, after making the contact for discharge, might be in part
removed from the internal portion of the wire at the first instance,
and disposed for the moment on its surface jointly with the air and
surrounding conductors, then I venture to anticipate that the middle
spark would be more retarded than before. And if those two plates were
the inner and outer coatings of a large jar or Leyden battery, then
the retardation of the spark would be much greater.' This was only
a prediction, for the experiment was not made.[2] Sixteen years
subsequently, however, the proper conditions came into play, and Faraday
was able to show that the observations of Werner Siemens, and Latimer
Clark, on subterraneous and submarine wires were illustrations, on a
grand scale, of the principle which he had enunciated in 1838. The wires
and the surrounding water act as a Leyden jar, and the retardation of
the current predicted by Faraday manifests itself in every message sent
by such cables.

The meaning of Faraday in these memoirs on Induction and Conduction is,
as I have said, by no means always clear; and the difficulty will
be most felt by those who are best trained in ordinary theoretic
conceptions. He does not know the reader's needs, and he therefore
does not meet them. For instance he speaks over and over again of
the impossibility of charging a body with one electricity, though the
impossibility is by no means evident. The key to the difficulty is this.
He looks upon every insulated conductor as the inner coating of a Leyden
jar. An insulated sphere in the middle of a room is to his mind such a
coating; the walls are the outer coating, while the air between both is
the insulator, across which the charge acts by induction. Without this
reaction of the walls upon the sphere you could no more, according to
Faraday, charge it with electricity than you could charge a Leyden jar,
if its outer coating were removed. Distance with him is immaterial. His
strength as a generalizer enables him to dissolve the idea of magnitude;
and if you abolish the walls of the room--even the earth itself--he
would make the sun and planets the outer coating of his jar. I dare not
contend that Faraday in these memoirs made all his theoretic positions
good. But a pure vein of philosophy runs through these writings; while
his experiments and reasonings on the forms and phenomena of electrical
discharge are of imperishable importance.

Footnotes to Chapter 8

     [1] Newton's third letter to Bentley.

     [2] Had Sir Charles Wheatstone been induced to resume his
     measurements, varying the substances through which, and the
     conditions under which, the current is propagated, he might
     have rendered great service to science, both theoretic and

Chapter 9.

     Rest needed--visit to Switzerland.

The last of these memoirs was dated from the Royal Institution in June,
1838. It concludes the first volume of his 'Experimental Researches on
Electricity.' In 1840, as already stated, he made his final assault on
the Contact Theory, from which it never recovered.[1] He was now feeling
the effects of the mental strain to which he had been subjected for so
many years. During these years he repeatedly broke down. His wife alone
witnessed the extent of his prostration, and to her loving care we, and
the world, are indebted for the enjoyment of his presence here so long.
He found occasional relief in a theatre. He frequently quitted London
and went to Brighton and elsewhere, always choosing a situation which
commanded a view of the sea, or of some other pleasant horizon, where he
could sit and gaze and feel the gradual revival of the faith that

          'Nature never did betray
           The heart that loved her.'

But very often for some days after his removal to the country, he would
be unable to do more than sit at a window and look out upon the sea and

In 1841, his state became more serious than it had ever been before. A
published letter to Mr. Richard Taylor, dated March 11, 1843, contains
an allusion to his previous condition. 'You are aware,' he says, 'that
considerations regarding health have prevented me from working or
reading on science for the last two years.' This, at one period
or another of their lives, seems to be the fate of most great
investigators. They do not know the limits of their constitutional
strength until they have transgressed them. It is, perhaps, right that
they should transgress them, in order to ascertain where they lie.
Faraday, however, though he went far towards it, did not push his
transgression beyond his power of restitution. In 1841 Mrs. Faraday and
he went to Switzerland, under the affectionate charge of her brother,
Mr. George Barnard, the artist. This time of suffering throws fresh
light upon his character. I have said that sweetness and gentleness were
not its only constituents; that he was also fiery and strong. At the
time now referred to, his fire was low and his strength distilled away;
but the residue of his life was neither irritability nor discontent. He
was unfit to mingle in society, for conversation was a pain to him; but
let us observe the great Man-child when alone. He is at the village of
Interlaken, enjoying Jungfrau sunsets, and at times watching the Swiss
nailers making their nails. He keeps a little journal, in which he
describes the process of nailmaking, and incidentally throws a luminous
beam upon himself.

'August 2, 1841.--Clout nailmaking goes on here rather considerably, and
is a very neat and pretty operation to observe. I love a smith's shop
and anything relating to smithery. My father was a smith.'

From Interlaken he went to the Falls of the Giessbach, on the pleasant
lake of Brientz. And here we have him watching the shoot of the cataract
down its series of precipices. It is shattered into foam at the base of
each, and tossed by its own recoil as water-dust through the air. The
sun is at his back, shining on the drifting spray, and he thus describes
and muses on what he sees:--

'August 12, 1841.--To-day every fall was foaming from the abundance of
water, and the current of wind brought down by it was in some places too
strong to stand against. The sun shone brightly, and the rainbows seen
from various points were very beautiful. One at the bottom of a fine but
furious fall was very pleasant,--there it remained motionless, whilst
the gusts and clouds of spray swept furiously across its place and were
dashed against the rock. It looked like a spirit strong in faith and
steadfast in the midst of the storm of passions sweeping across it, and
though it might fade and revive, still it held on to the rock as in hope
and giving hope. And the very drops, which in the whirlwind of their
fury seemed as if they would carry all away, were made to revive it and
give it greater beauty.'

Footnote to Chapter 9

     [1] See note, p. 77.

Chapter 10.

     Magnetization of light.

But we must quit the man and go on to the discoverer: we shall return
for a brief space to his company by-and-by. Carry your thoughts back to
his last experiments, and see him endeavouring to prove that induction
is due to the action of contiguous particles. He knew that polarized
light was a most subtle and delicate investigator of molecular
condition. He used it in 1834 in exploring his electrolytes, and he
tried it in 1838 upon his dielectrics. At that time he coated two
opposite faces of a glass cube with tinfoil, connected one coating with
his powerful electric machine and the other with the earth, and examined
by polarized light the condition of the glass when thus subjected to
strong electric influence. He failed to obtain any effect; still he was
persuaded an action existed, and required only suitable means to call it

After his return from Switzerland he was beset by these thoughts; they
were more inspired than logical: but he resorted to magnets and proved
his inspiration true. His dislike of 'doubtful knowledge' and his
efforts to liberate his mind from the thraldom of hypotheses have been
already referred to. Still this rebel against theory was incessantly
theorising himself. His principal researches are all connected by an
undercurrent of speculation. Theoretic ideas were the very sap of his
intellect--the source from which all his strength as an experimenter was
derived. While once sauntering with him through the Crystal Palace, at
Sydenham, I asked him what directed his attention to the magnetization
of light. It was his theoretic notions. He had certain views regarding
the unity and convertibility of natural forces; certain ideas regarding
the vibrations of light and their relations to the lines of magnetic
force; these views and ideas drove him to investigation. And so it must
always be: the great experimentalist must ever be the habitual theorist,
whether or not he gives to his theories formal enunciation.

Faraday, you have been informed, endeavoured to improve the manufacture
of glass for optical purposes. But though he produced a heavy glass of
great refractive power, its value to optics did not repay him for
the pains and labour bestowed on it. Now, however, we reach a result
established by means of this same heavy glass, which made ample amends
for all.

In November, 1845, he announced his discovery of the 'Magnetization of
Light and the Illumination of the Lines of Magnetic Force.' This title
provoked comment at the time, and caused misapprehension. He therefore
added an explanatory note; but the note left his meaning as entangled as
before. In fact Faraday had notions regarding the magnetization of light
which were peculiar to himself, and untranslatable into the scientific
language of the time. Probably no other philosopher of his day would
have employed the phrases just quoted as appropriate to the discovery
announced in 1845. But Faraday was more than a philosopher; he was
a prophet, and often wrought by an inspiration to be understood by
sympathy alone. The prophetic element in his character occasionally
coloured, and even injured, the utterance of the man of science;
but subtracting that element, though you might have conferred on him
intellectual symmetry, you would have destroyed his motive force.

But let us pass from the label of this casket to the jewel it
contains. 'I have long,' he says, 'held an opinion, almost amounting
to conviction, in common, I believe, with many other lovers of natural
knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are
made manifest have one common origin; in other words, are so directly
related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were,
into one another, and possess equivalents of power in their action....
This strong persuasion,' he adds, 'extended to the powers of light.'
And then he examines the action of magnets upon light. From conversation
with him and Anderson, I should infer that the labour preceding this
discovery was very great. The world knows little of the toil of the
discoverer. It sees the climber jubilant on the mountain top, but
does not know the labour expended in reaching it. Probably hundreds of
experiments had been made on transparent crystals before he thought of
testing his heavy glass. Here is his own clear and simple description
of the result of his first experiment with this substance:--'A piece of
this glass, about two inches square, and 0.5 of an inch thick, having
flat and polished edges, was placed as a diamagnetic[1] between the
poles (not as yet magnetized by the electric current), so that the
polarized ray should pass through its length; the glass acted as air,
water, or any other transparent substance would do; and if the eye-piece
were previously turned into such a position that the polarized ray was
extinguished, or rather the image produced by it rendered invisible,
then the introduction of the glass made no alteration in this respect.
In this state of circumstances, the force of the electro-magnet
was developed by sending an electric current through its coils, and
immediately the image of the lamp-flame became visible and continued so
as long as the arrangement continued magnetic. On stopping the electric
current, and so causing the magnetic force to cease, the light instantly
disappeared. These phenomena could be renewed at pleasure, at any
instant of time, and upon any occasion, showing a perfect dependence of
cause and effect.'

In a beam of ordinary light the particles of the luminiferous ether
vibrate in all directions perpendicular to the line of progression; by
the act of polarization, performed here by Faraday, all oscillations
but those parallel to a certain plane are eliminated. When the plane
of vibration of the polarizer coincides with that of the analyzer, a
portion of the beam passes through both; but when these two planes
are at right angles to each other, the beam is extinguished. If by any
means, while the polarizer and analyzer remain thus crossed, the plane
of vibration of the polarized beam between them could be changed,
then the light would be, in part at least, transmitted. In Faraday's
experiment this was accomplished. His magnet turned the plane of
polarization of the beam through a certain angle, and thus enabled it
to get through the analyzer; so that 'the magnetization of light and the
illumination of the magnetic lines of force' becomes, when expressed
in the language of modern theory, the rotation of the plane of

To him, as to all true philosophers, the main value of a fact was its
position and suggestiveness in the general sequence of scientific truth.
Hence, having established the existence of a phenomenon, his habit
was to look at it from all possible points of view, and to develop its
relationship to other phenomena. He proved that the direction of the
rotation depends upon the polarity of his magnet; being reversed when
the magnetic poles are reversed. He showed that when a polarized ray
passed through his heavy glass in a direction parallel to the magnetic
lines of force, the rotation is a maximum, and that when the direction
of the ray is at right angles to the lines of force, there is no
rotation at all. He also proved that the amount of the rotation is
proportional to the length of the diamagnetic through which the ray
passes. He operated with liquids and solutions. Of aqueous solutions he
tried 150 and more, and found the power in all of them. He then examined
gases; but here all his efforts to produce any sensible action upon
the polarized beam were ineffectual. He then passed from magnets to
currents, enclosing bars of heavy glass, and tubes containing liquids
and aqueous solutions within an electro-magnetic helix. A current sent
through the helix caused the plane of polarization to rotate, and always
in the direction of the current. The rotation was reversed when the
current was reversed. In the case of magnets, he observed a gradual,
though quick, ascent of the transmitted beam from a state of darkness
to its maximum brilliancy, when the magnet was excited. In the case of
currents, the beam attained at once its maximum. This he showed to be
due to the time required by the iron of the electro-magnet to assume its
full magnetic power, which time vanishes when a current, without iron,
is employed. 'In this experiment,' he says, 'we may, I think, justly
say that a ray of light is electrified, and the electric forces
illuminated.' In the helix, as with the magnets, he submitted air to
magnetic influence 'carefully and anxiously,' but could not discover any
trace of action on the polarized ray.

Many substances possess the power of turning the plane of polarization
without the intervention of magnetism. Oil of turpentine and quartz
are examples; but Faraday showed that, while in one direction, that is,
across the lines of magnetic force, his rotation is zero, augmenting
gradually from this until it attains its maximum, when the direction of
the ray is parallel to the lines of force; in the oil of turpentine the
rotation is independent of the direction of the ray. But he showed that
a still more profound distinction exists between the magnetic rotation
and the natural one. I will try to explain how. Suppose a tube with
glass ends containing oil of turpentine to be placed north and south.
Fixing the eye at the south end of the tube, let a polarized beam be
sent through it from the north. To the observer in this position
the rotation of the plane of polarization, by the turpentine, is
right-handed. Let the eye be placed at the north end of the tube, and
a beam be sent through it from the south; the rotation is still
right-handed. Not so, however, when a bar of heavy glass is subjected
to the action of an electric current. In this case if, in the first
position of the eye, the rotation be right-handed, in the second
position it is left-handed. These considerations make it manifest that
if a polarized beam, after having passed through the oil of turpentine
in its natural state, could by any means be reflected back through the
liquid, the rotation impressed upon the direct beam would be exactly
neutralized by that impressed upon the reflected one. Not so with the
induced magnetic effect. Here it is manifest that the rotation would
be doubled by the act of reflection. Hence Faraday concludes that the
particles of the oil of turpentine which rotate by virtue of their
natural force, and those which rotate in virtue of the induced force,
cannot be in the same condition. The same remark applies to all bodies
which possess a natural power of rotating the plane of polarization.

And then he proceeded with exquisite skill and insight to take advantage
of this conclusion. He silvered the ends of his piece of heavy glass,
leaving, however, a narrow portion parallel to two edges diagonally
opposed to each other unsilvered. He then sent his beam through this
uncovered portion, and by suitably inclining his glass caused the beam
within it to reach his eye first direct, and then after two, four, and
six reflections. These corresponded to the passage of the ray once,
three times, five times, and seven times through the glass. He thus
established with numerical accuracy the exact proportionality of the
rotation to the distance traversed by the polarized beam. Thus in one
series of experiments where the rotation required by the direct beam
was 12degrees, that acquired by three passages through the glass was
36degrees, while that acquired by five passages was 60degrees. But even
when this method of magnifying was applied, he failed with various
solid substances to obtain any effect; and in the case of air, though he
employed to the utmost the power which these repeated reflections placed
in his hands, he failed to produce the slightest sensible rotation.

These failures of Faraday to obtain the effect with gases seem to
indicate the true seat of the phenomenon. The luminiferous ether
surrounds and is influenced by the ultimate particles of matter. The
symmetry of the one involves that of the other. Thus, if the molecules
of a crystal be perfectly symmetrical round any line through the
crystal, we may safely conclude that a ray will pass along this line
as through ordinary glass. It will not be doubly refracted. From the
symmetry of the liquid figures, known to be produced in the planes of
freezing, when radiant heat is sent through ice, we may safely infer
symmetry of aggregation, and hence conclude that the line perpendicular
to the planes of freezing is a line of no double refraction; that it is,
in fact, the optic axis of the crystal. The same remark applies to the
line joining the opposite blunt angles of a crystal of Iceland spar.
The arrangement of the molecules round this line being symmetrical,
the condition of the ether depending upon these molecules shares their
symmetry; and there is, therefore, no reason why the wavelength should
alter with the alteration of the azimuth round this line. Annealed glass
has its molecules symmetrically arranged round every line that can
be drawn through it; hence it is not doubly refractive. But let the
substance be either squeezed or strained in one direction, the molecular
symmetry, and with it the symmetry of the ether, is immediately
destroyed and the glass becomes doubly refractive. Unequal heating
produces the same effect. Thus mechanical strains reveal themselves by
optical effects; and there is little doubt that in Faraday's experiment
it is the magnetic strain that produces the rotation of the plane of

Footnotes to Chapter 10

     [1] 'By a diamagnetic,' says Faraday, 'I mean a body through
     which lines of magnetic force are passing,  and which does
     not by their action assume the usual magnetic state of iron
     or loadstone.' Faraday subsequently used this term in a
     different sense from that here given, as will immediately

     [2] The power of double refraction conferred on the centre
     of a glass rod, when it is caused to sound the fundamental
     note due to its longitudinal vibration, and the absence of
     the same power in the case of vibrating air (enclosed in a
     glass organ-pipe), seems to be analogous to the presence and
     absence of Faraday's effect in the same two substances.
     Faraday never, to my knowledge, attempted to give, even in
     conversation, a picture of the molecular condition of his
     heavy glass when subjected to magnetic influence.  In a
     mathematical investigation of the subject, published in the
     Proceedings of the Royal Society for 1856, Sir William
     Thomson arrives at the conclusion that the 'diamagnetic' is
     in a state of molecular rotation.

Chapter 11.

     Discovery of diamagnetism--researches on magne-crystallic

Faraday's next great step in discovery was announced in a memoir on the
'Magnetic Condition of all matter,' communicated to the Royal Society on
December 18, 1845. One great source of his success was the employment
of extraordinary power. As already stated, he never accepted a negative
answer to an experiment until he had brought to bear upon it all the
force at his command. He had over and over again tried steel magnets and
ordinary electro-magnets on various substances, but without detecting
anything different from the ordinary attraction exhibited by a few of
them. Stronger coercion, however, developed a new action. Before the
pole of an electro-magnet, he suspended a fragment of his famous heavy
glass; and observed that when the magnet was powerfully excited the
glass fairly retreated from the pole. It was a clear case of magnetic
repulsion. He then suspended a bar of the glass between two poles;
the bar retreated when the poles were excited, and set its length
equatorially or at right angles to the line joining them. When an
ordinary magnetic body was similarly suspended, it always set axially,
that is, from pole to pole.

Faraday called those bodies which were repelled by the poles of a
magnet, diamagnetic bodies; using this term in a sense different from
that in which he employed it in his memoir on the magnetization of
light. The term magnetic he reserved for bodies which exhibited the
ordinary attraction. He afterwards employed the term magnetic to cover
the whole phenomena of attraction and repulsion, and used the word
paramagnetic to designate such magnetic action as is exhibited by iron.

Isolated observations by Brugmanns, Becquerel, Le Baillif, Saigy, and
Seebeck had indicated the existence of a repulsive force exercised by
the magnet on two or three substances; but these observations, which
were unknown to Faraday, had been permitted to remain without extension
or examination. Having laid hold of the fact of repulsion, Faraday
immediately expanded and multiplied it. He subjected bodies of the most
varied qualities to the action of his magnet:--mineral salts, acids,
alkalis, ethers, alcohols, aqueous solutions, glass, phosphorus,
resins, oils, essences, vegetable and animal tissues, and found them
all amenable to magnetic influence. No known solid or liquid proved
insensible to the magnetic power when developed in sufficient strength.
All the tissues of the human body, the blood--though it contains
iron--included, were proved to be diamagnetic. So that if you could
suspend a man between the poles of a magnet, his extremities would
retreat from the poles until his length became equatorial.

Soon after he had commenced his researches on diamagnetism, Faraday
noticed a remarkable phenomenon which first crossed my own path in the
following way: In the year 1849, while working in the cabinet of my
friend, Professor Knoblauch, of Marburg, I suspended a small copper coin
between the poles of an electro-magnet. On exciting the magnet, the coin
moved towards the poles and then suddenly stopped, as if it had struck
against a cushion. On breaking the circuit, the coin was repelled, the
revulsion being so violent as to cause it to spin several times round
its axis of suspension. A Silber-groschen similarly suspended exhibited
the same deportment. For a moment I thought this a new discovery; but on
looking over the literature of the subject, it appeared that Faraday
had observed, multiplied, and explained the same effect during his
researches on diamagnetism. His explanation was based upon his own great
discovery of magneto-electric currents. The effect is a most singular
one. A weight of several pounds of copper may be set spinning between
the electro-magnetic poles; the excitement of the magnet instantly stops
the rotation. Though nothing is apparent to the eye, the copper, if
moved in the excited magnetic field, appears to move through a viscous
fluid; while, when a flat piece of the metal is caused to pass to and
fro like a saw between the poles, the sawing of the magnetic field
resembles the cutting through of cheese or butter.[1] This virtual
friction of the magnetic field is so strong, that copper, by its rapid
rotation between the poles, might probably be fused. We may easily
dismiss this experiment by saying that the heat is due to the electric
currents excited in the copper. But so long as we are unable to reply
to the question, 'What is an electric current?' the explanation is only
provisional. For my own part, I look with profound interest and hope on
the strange action here referred to.

Faraday's thoughts ran intuitively into experimental combinations,
so that subjects whose capacity for experimental treatment would, to
ordinary minds, seem to be exhausted in a moment, were shown by him to
be all but inexhaustible. He has now an object in view, the first step
towards which is the proof that the principle of Archimedes is true of
magnetism. He forms magnetic solutions of various degrees of strength,
places them between the poles of his magnet, and suspends in the
solutions various magnetic bodies. He proves that when the solution
is stronger than the body plunged in it, the body, though magnetic,
is repelled; and when an elongated piece of it is surrounded by the
solution, it sets, like a diamagnetic body, equatorially between the
excited poles. The same body when suspended in a solution of weaker
magnetic power than itself, is attracted as a whole, while an elongated
portion of it sets axially.

And now theoretic questions rush in upon him. Is this new force a true
repulsion, or is it merely a differential attraction? Might not the
apparent repulsion of diamagnetic bodies be really due to the greater
attraction of the medium by which they are surrounded? He tries the
rarefaction of air, but finds the effect insensible. He is averse to
ascribing a capacity of attraction to space, or to any hypothetical
medium supposed to fill space. He therefore inclines, but still with
caution, to the opinion that the action of a magnet upon bismuth is a
true and absolute repulsion, and not merely the result of differential
attraction. And then he clearly states a theoretic view sufficient to
account for the phenomena. 'Theoretically,' he says, 'an explanation of
the movements of the diamagnetic bodies, and all the dynamic phenomena
consequent upon the action of magnets upon them, might be offered in the
supposition that magnetic induction caused in them a contrary state to
that which it produced in ordinary matter.' That is to say, while in
ordinary magnetic influence the exciting pole excites adjacent to itself
the contrary magnetism, in diamagnetic bodies the adjacent magnetism is
the same as that of the exciting pole. This theory of reversed polarity,
however, does not appear to have ever laid deep hold of Faraday's mind;
and his own experiments failed to give any evidence of its truth. He
therefore subsequently abandoned it, and maintained the non-polarity of
the diamagnetic force.

He then entered a new, though related field of inquiry. Having dealt
with the metals and their compounds, and having classified all of
them that came within the range of his observation under the two heads
magnetic and diamagnetic, he began the investigation of the phenomena
presented by crystals when subjected to magnetic power. This action of
crystals had been in part theoretically predicted by Poisson,[2] and
actually discovered by Plucker, whose beautiful results, at the period
which we have now reached, profoundly interested all scientific men.
Faraday had been frequently puzzled by the deportment of bismuth, a
highly crystalline metal. Sometimes elongated masses of the substance
refused to set equatorially, sometimes they set persistently oblique,
and sometimes even, like a magnetic body, from pole to pole.

'The effect,' he says, 'occurs at a single pole; and it is then striking
to observe a long piece of a substance so diamagnetic as bismuth
repelled, and yet at the same moment set round with force, axially, or
end on, as a piece of magnetic substance would do.' The effect perplexed
him; and in his efforts to release himself from this perplexity, no
feature of this new manifestation of force escaped his attention. His
experiments are described in a memoir communicated to the Royal Society
on December 7, 1848.

I have worked long myself at magne-crystallic action, amid all the light
of Faraday's and Plucker's researches. The papers now before me were
objects of daily and nightly study with me eighteen or nineteen years
ago; but even now, though their perusal is but the last of a series of
repetitions, they astonish me. Every circumstance connected with the
subject; every shade of deportment; every variation in the energy of
the action; almost every application which could possibly be made of
magnetism to bring out in detail the character of this new force,
is minutely described. The field is swept clean, and hardly anything
experimental is left for the gleaner. The phenomena, he concludes, are
altogether different from those of magnetism or diamagnetism: they would
appear, in fact, to present to us 'a new force, or a new form of force,
in the molecules of matter,' which, for convenience sake, he designates
by a new word, as 'the magne-crystallic force.'

He looks at the crystal acted upon by the magnet. From its mass he
passes, in idea, to its atoms, and he asks himself whether the power
which can thus seize upon the crystalline molecules, after they have
been fixed in their proper positions by crystallizing force, may
not, when they are free, be able to determine their arrangement? He,
therefore, liberates the atoms by fusing the bismuth. He places the
fused substance between the poles of an electro-magnet, powerfully
excited; but he fails to detect any action. I think it cannot be doubted
that an action is exerted here, that a true cause comes into play; but
its magnitude is not such as sensibly to interfere with the force of
crystallization, which, in comparison with the diamagnetic force, is
enormous. 'Perhaps,' adds Faraday, 'if a longer time were allowed, and
a permanent magnet used, a better result might be obtained. I had built
many hopes upon the process.' This expression, and his writings
abound in such, illustrates what has been already said regarding his
experiments being suggested and guided by his theoretic conceptions. His
mind was full of hopes and hypotheses, but he always brought them to an
experimental test. The record of his planned and executed experiments
would, I doubt not, show a high ratio of hopes disappointed to hopes
fulfilled; but every case of fulfilment abolished all memory of defeat;
disappointment was swallowed up in victory.

After the description of the general character of this new force,
Faraday states with the emphasis here reproduced its mode of
action: 'The law of action appears to be that the line or axis of
MAGNE-CRYSTALLIC force (being the resultant of the action of all the
molecules) tends to place itself parallel, or as a tangent, to the
magnetic curve, or line of magnetic force, passing through the place
where the crystal is situated.' The magne-crystallic force, moreover,
appears to him 'to be clearly distinguished from the magnetic or
diamagnetic forces, in that it causes neither approach nor recession,
consisting not in attraction or repulsion, but in giving a certain
determinate position to the mass under its influence.' And then he goes
on 'very carefully to examine and prove the conclusion that there was no
connection of the force with attractive or repulsive influences.' With
the most refined ingenuity he shows that, under certain circumstances,
the magne-crystallic force can cause the centre of gravity of a highly
magnetic body to retreat from the poles, and the centre of gravity of a
highly diamagnetic body to approach them. His experiments root his mind
more and more firmly in the conclusion that 'neither attraction nor
repulsion causes the set, or governs the final position' of the crystal
in the magnetic field. That the force which does so is therefore
'distinct in its character and effects from the magnetic and diamagnetic
forms of force. On the other hand,' he continues, 'it has a most
manifest relation to the crystalline structure of bismuth and other
bodies, and therefore to the power by which their molecules are able to
build up the crystalline masses.'

And here follows one of those expressions which characterize the
conceptions of Faraday in regard to force generally:--'It appears to me
impossible to conceive of the results in any other way than by a mutual
reaction of the magnetic force, and the force of the particles of the
crystals upon each other.' He proves that the action of the force,
though thus molecular, is an action at a distance; he shows that a
bismuth crystal can cause a freely suspended magnetic needle to set
parallel to its magne-crystallic axis. Few living men are aware of the
difficulty of obtaining results like this, or of the delicacy necessary
to their attainment. 'But though it thus takes up the character of
a force acting at a distance, still it is due to that power of the
particles which makes them cohere in regular order and gives the mass
its crystalline aggregation, which we call at other times the
attraction of aggregation, and so often speak of as acting at insensible
distances.' Thus he broods over this new force, and looks at it from all
possible points of inspection. Experiment follows experiment, as thought
follows thought. He will not relinquish the subject as long as a hope
exists of throwing more light upon it. He knows full well the anomalous
nature of the conclusion to which his experiments lead him. But
experiment to him is final, and he will not shrink from the conclusion.
'This force,' he says, 'appears to me to be very strange and striking
in its character. It is not polar, for there is no attraction
or repulsion.' And then, as if startled by his own utterance, he
asks--'What is the nature of the mechanical force which turns the
crystal round, and makes it affect a magnet?'... 'I do not remember,' he
continues 'heretofore such a case of force as the present one, where a
body is brought into position only, without attraction or repulsion.'

Plucker, the celebrated geometer already mentioned, who pursued
experimental physics for many years of his life with singular devotion
and success, visited Faraday in those days, and repeated before him
his beautiful experiments on magneto-optic action. Faraday repeated and
verified Plucker's observations, and concluded, what he at first seemed
to doubt, that Plucker's results and magne-crystallic action had the
same origin.

At the end of his papers, when he takes a last look along the line of
research, and then turns his eyes to the future, utterances quite as
much emotional as scientific escape from Faraday. 'I cannot,' he says,
at the end of his first paper on magne-crystallic action, 'conclude
this series of researches without remarking how rapidly the knowledge of
molecular forces grows upon us, and how strikingly every investigation
tends to develop more and more their importance, and their extreme
attraction as an object of study. A few years ago magnetism was to us an
occult power, affecting only a few bodies, now it is found to influence
all bodies, and to possess the most intimate relations with electricity,
heat, chemical action, light, crystallization, and through it, with
the forces concerned in cohesion; and we may, in the present state of
things, well feel urged to continue in our labours, encouraged by the
hope of bringing it into a bond of union with gravity itself.'

Supplementary remarks

A brief space will, perhaps, be granted me here to state the further
progress of an investigation which interested Faraday so much. Drawn by
the fame of Bunsen as a teacher, in the year 1848 I became a student in
the University of Marburg, in Hesse Cassel. Bunsen's behaviour to me
was that of a brother as well as that of a teacher, and it was also my
happiness to make the acquaintance and gain the friendship of Professor
Knoblauch, so highly distinguished by his researches on Radiant Heat.
Plucker's and Faraday's investigations filled all minds at the time,
and towards the end of 1849, Professor Knoblauch and myself commenced
a joint investigation of the entire question. Long discipline was
necessary to give us due mastery over it. Employing a method proposed by
Dove, we examined the optical properties of our crystals ourselves;
and these optical observations went hand in hand with our magnetic
experiments. The number of these experiments was very great, but for
a considerable time no fact of importance was added to those already
published. At length, however, it was our fortune to meet with various
crystals whose deportment could not be brought under the laws of
magne-crystallic action enunciated by Plucker. We also discovered
instances which led us to suppose that the magne-crystallic force was
by no means independent, as alleged, of the magnetism or diamagnetism of
the mass of the crystal. Indeed, the more we worked at the subject, the
more clearly did it appear to us that the deportment of crystals in the
magnetic field was due, not to a force previously unknown, but to
the modification of the known forces of magnetism and diamagnetism by
crystalline aggregation.

An eminent example of magne-crystallic action adduced by Plucker, and
experimented on by Faraday, was Iceland spar. It is what in optics is
called a negative crystal, and according to the law of Plucker, the axis
of such a crystal was always repelled by a magnet. But we showed that it
was only necessary to substitute, in whole or in part, carbonate of iron
for carbonate of lime, thus changing the magnetic but not the optical
character of the crystal, to cause the axis to be attracted. That the
deportment of magnetic crystals is exactly antithetical to that of
diamagnetic crystals isomorphous with the magnetic ones, was proved
to be a general law of action. In all cases, the line which in
a diamagnetic crystal set equatorially, always set itself in an
isomorphous magnetic crystal axially. By mechanical compression other
bodies were also made to imitate the Iceland spar.

These and numerous other results bearing upon the question were
published at the time in the 'Philosophical Magazine' and in
'Poggendorff's Annalen'; and the investigation of diamagnetism and
magne-crystallic action was subsequently continued by me in the
laboratory of Professor Magnus of Berlin. In December, 1851, after I had
quitted Germany, Dr. Bence Jones went to the Prussian capital to see
the celebrated experiments of Du Bois Reymond. Influenced, I suppose, by
what he there heard, he afterwards invited me to give a Friday evening
discourse at the Royal Institution. I consented, not without fear and
trembling. For the Royal Institution was to me a kind of dragon's den,
where tact and strength would be necessary to save me from destruction.
On February 11, 1853, the discourse was given, and it ended happily.
I allude to these things, that I may mention that, though my aim and
object in that lecture was to subvert the notions both of Faraday and
Plucker, and to establish in opposition to their views what I regarded
as the truth, it was very far from producing in Faraday either enmity or
anger. At the conclusion of the lecture, he quitted his accustomed seat,
crossed the theatre to the corner into which I had shrunk, shook me by
the hand, and brought me back to the table. Once more, subsequently,
and in connection with a related question, I ventured to differ from him
still more emphatically. It was done out of trust in the greatness of
his character; nor was the trust misplaced. He felt my public dissent
from him; and it pained me afterwards to the quick to think that I had
given him even momentary annoyance. It was, however, only momentary. His
soul was above all littleness and proof to all egotism. He was the same
to me afterwards that he had been before; the very chance expression
which led me to conclude that he felt my dissent being one of kindness
and affection.

It required long subsequent effort to subdue the complications of
magne-crystallic action, and to bring under the dominion of elementary
principles the vast mass of facts which the experiments of Faraday and
Plucker had brought to light. It was proved by Reich, Edmond Becquerel,
and myself, that the condition of diamagnetic bodies, in virtue of which
they were repelled by the poles of a magnet, was excited in them by
those poles; that the strength of this condition rose and fell with, and
was proportional to, the strength of the acting magnet. It was not then
any property possessed permanently by the bismuth, and which merely
required the development of magnetism to act upon it, that caused the
repulsion; for then the repulsion would have been simply proportional to
the strength of the influencing magnet, whereas experiment proved it to
augment as the square of the strength. The capacity to be repelled was
therefore not inherent in the bismuth, but induced. So far an identity
of action was established between magnetic and diamagnetic bodies.
After this the deportment of magnetic bodies, 'normal' and 'abnormal';
crystalline, amorphous, and compressed, was compared with that of
crystalline, amorphous, and compressed diamagnetic bodies; and by a
series of experiments, executed in the laboratory of this Institution,
the most complete antithesis was established between magnetism and
diamagnetism. This antithesis embraced the quality of polarity,--the
theory of reversed polarity, first propounded by Faraday, being proved
to be true. The discussion of the question was very brisk. On the
Continent Professor Wilhelm Weber was the ablest and most successful
supporter of the doctrine of diamagnetic polarity; and it was with an
apparatus, devised by him and constructed under his own superintendence,
by Leyser of Leipzig, that the last demands of the opponents of
diamagnetic polarity were satisfied. The establishment of this point was
absolutely necessary to the explanation of magne-crystallic action.

With that admirable instinct which always guided him, Faraday had seen
that it was possible, if not probable, that the diamagnetic force acts
with different degrees of intensity in different directions, through
the mass of a crystal. In his studies on electricity, he had sought an
experimental reply to the question whether crystalline bodies had not
different specific inductive capacities in different directions, but
he failed to establish any difference of the kind. His first attempt
to establish differences of diamagnetic action in different directions
through bismuth, was also a failure; but he must have felt this to be
a point of cardinal importance, for he returned to the subject in 1850,
and proved that bismuth was repelled with different degrees of force in
different directions. It seemed as if the crystal were compounded of
two diamagnetic bodies of different strengths, the substance being more
strongly repelled across the magne-crystallic axis than along it. The
same result was obtained independently, and extended to various
other bodies, magnetic as well as diamagnetic, and also to compressed
substances, a little subsequently by myself.

The law of action in relation to this point is, that in diamagnetic
crystals, the line along which the repulsion is a maximum, sets
equatorially in the magnetic field; while in magnetic crystals the line
along which the attraction is a maximum sets from pole to pole. Faraday
had said that the magne-crystallic force was neither attraction nor
repulsion. Thus far he was right. It was neither taken singly, but it
was both. By the combination of the doctrine of diamagnetic polarity
with these differential attractions and repulsions, and by paying due
regard to the character of the magnetic field, every fact brought
to light in the domain of magne-crystallic action received complete
explanation. The most perplexing of those facts were shown to result
from the action of mechanical couples, which the proved polarity both
of magnetism and diamagnetism brought into play. Indeed the thoroughness
with which the experiments of Faraday were thus explained, is the most
striking possible demonstration of the marvellous precision with which
they were executed.

Footnotes to Chapter 11

     [1] See Heat as a Mode of Motion, ninth edition, p. 75.

     [2] See Sir Wm. Thomson on Magne-crystallic Action. Phil.
     Mag., 1851.

Chapter 12.

     Magnetism of flame and gases--atmospheric magnetism

When an experimental result was obtained by Faraday it was instantly
enlarged by his imagination. I am acquainted with no mind whose power
and suddenness of expansion at the touch of new physical truth could be
ranked with his. Sometimes I have compared the action of his experiments
on his mind to that of highly combustible matter thrown into a furnace;
every fresh entry of fact was accompanied by the immediate development
of light and heat. The light, which was intellectual, enabled him to see
far beyond the boundaries of the fact itself, and the heat, which was
emotional, urged him to the conquest of this newly-revealed domain. But
though the force of his imagination was enormous, he bridled it like a
mighty rider, and never permitted his intellect to be overthrown.

In virtue of the expansive power which his vivid imagination conferred
upon him, he rose from the smallest beginnings to the grandest ends.
Having heard from Zantedeschi that Bancalari had established the
magnetism of flame, he repeated the experiments and augmented the
results. He passed from flames to gases, examining and revealing their
magnetic and diamagnetic powers; and then he suddenly rose from his
bubbles of oxygen and nitrogen to the atmospheric envelope of the
earth itself, and its relations to the great question of terrestrial
magnetism. The rapidity with which these ever-augmenting thoughts
assumed the form of experiments is unparalleled. His power in this
respect is often best illustrated by his minor investigations, and,
perhaps, by none more strikingly than by his paper 'On the Diamagnetic
Condition of Flame and Gases,' published as a letter to Mr. Richard
Taylor, in the 'Philosophical Magazine' for December, 1847. After
verifying, varying, and expanding the results of Bancalari, he submitted
to examination heated air-currents, produced by platinum spirals placed
in the magnetic field, and raised to incandescence by electricity. He
then examined the magnetic deportment of gases generally. Almost all
of these gases are invisible; but he must, nevertheless, track them in
their unseen courses. He could not effect this by mingling smoke with
his gases, for the action of his magnet upon the smoke would have
troubled his conclusions. He, therefore, 'caught' his gases in tubes,
carried them out of the magnetic field, and made them reveal themselves
at a distance from the magnet.

Immersing one gas in another, he determined their differential action;
results of the utmost beauty being thus arrived at. Perhaps the
most important are those obtained with atmospheric air and its two
constituents. Oxygen, in various media, was strongly attracted by the
magnet; in coal-gas, for example, it was powerfully magnetic, whereas
nitrogen was diamagnetic. Some of the effects obtained with oxygen
in coal-gas were strikingly beautiful. When the fumes of chloride of
ammonium (a diamagnetic substance) were mingled with the oxygen, the
cloud of chloride behaved in a most singular manner,--'The attraction
of iron filings,' says Faraday, 'to a magnetic pole is not more striking
than the appearance presented by the oxygen under these circumstances.'

On observing this deportment the question immediately occurs to
him,--Can we not separate the oxygen of the atmosphere from its nitrogen
by magnetic analysis? It is the perpetual occurrence of such questions
that marks the great experimenter. The attempt to analyze atmospheric
air by magnetic force proved a failure, like the previous attempt to
influence crystallization by the magnet. The enormous comparative power
of the force of crystallization I have already assigned as a reason for
the incompetence of the magnet to determine molecular arrangement; in
the present instance the magnetic analysis is opposed by the force of
diffusion, which is also very strong comparatively. The same remark
applies to, and is illustrated by, another experiment subsequently
executed by Faraday. Water is diamagnetic, sulphate of iron is strongly
magnetic. He enclosed 'a dilute solution of sulphate of iron in a tube,
and placed the lower end of the tube between the poles of a powerful
horseshoe magnet for days together,' but he could produce 'no
concentration of the solution in the part near the magnet.' Here also
the diffusibility of the salt was too powerful for the force brought
against it.

The experiment last referred to is recorded in a paper presented to
the Royal Society on the 2nd August, 1850, in which he pursues the
investigation of the magnetism of gases. Newton's observations on
soap-bubbles were often referred to by Faraday. His delight in a
soap-bubble was like that of a boy, and he often introduced them into
his lectures, causing them, when filled with air, to float on invisible
seas of carbonic acid, and otherwise employing them as a means of
illustration. He now finds them exceedingly useful in his experiments
on the magnetic condition of gases. A bubble of air in a magnetic field
occupied by air was unaffected, save through the feeble repulsion of its
envelope. A bubble of nitrogen, on the contrary, was repelled from the
magnetic axis with a force far surpassing that of a bubble of air.
The deportment of oxygen in air 'was very impressive, the bubble being
pulled inward or towards the axial line, sharply and suddenly, as if the
oxygen were highly magnetic.'

He next labours to establish the true magnetic zero, a problem not so
easy as might at first sight be imagined. For the action of the magnet
upon any gas, while surrounded by air or any other gas, can only be
differential; and if the experiment were made in vacuo, the action of
the envelope, in this case necessarily of a certain thickness, would
trouble the result. While dealing with this subject, Faraday makes
some noteworthy observations regarding space. In reference to the
Torricellian vacuum, he says, 'Perhaps it is hardly necessary for me to
state that I find both iron and bismuth in such vacua perfectly obedient
to the magnet. From such experiments, and also from general observations
and knowledge, it seems manifest that the lines of magnetic force can
traverse pure space, just as gravitating force does, and as statical
electrical forces do, and therefore space has a magnetic relation of its
own, and one that we shall probably find hereafter to be of the utmost
importance in natural phenomena. But this character of space is not
of the same kind as that which, in relation to matter, we endeavour to
express by the terms magnetic and diamagnetic. To confuse these
together would be to confound space with matter, and to trouble all
the conceptions by which we endeavour to understand and work out a
progressively clearer view of the mode of action, and the laws of
natural forces. It would be as if in gravitation or electric forces,
one were to confound the particles acting on each other with the space
across which they are acting, and would, I think, shut the door to
advancement. Mere space cannot act as matter acts, even though the
utmost latitude be allowed to the hypothesis of an ether; and admitting
that hypothesis, it would be a large additional assumption to suppose
that the lines of magnetic force are vibrations carried on by it, whilst
as yet we have no proof that time is required for their propagation, or
in what respect they may, in general character, assimilate to or differ
from their respective lines of gravitating, luminiferous, or electric

Pure space he assumes to be the true magnetic zero, but he pushes his
inquiries to ascertain whether among material substances there may not
be some which resemble space. If you follow his experiments, you will
soon emerge into the light of his results. A torsion-beam was
suspended by a skein of cocoon silk; at one end of the beam was fixed
a cross-piece 1 1/2 inch long. Tubes of exceedingly thin glass, filled
with various gases, and hermetically sealed, were suspended in pairs
from the two ends of the cross-piece. The position of the rotating
torsion-head was such that the two tubes were at opposite sides of,
and equidistant from, the magnetic axis, that is to say from the line
joining the two closely approximated polar points of an electro-magnet.
His object was to compare the magnetic action of the gases in the
two tubes. When one tube was filled with oxygen, and the other with
nitrogen, on the supervention of the magnetic force, the oxygen was
pulled towards the axis, the nitrogen being pushed out. By turning
the torsion-head they could be restored to their primitive position of
equidistance, where it is evident the action of the glass envelopes was
annulled. The amount of torsion necessary to re-establish equidistance
expressed the magnetic difference of the substances compared.

And then he compared oxygen with oxygen at different pressures. One of
his tubes contained the gas at the pressure of 30 inches of mercury,
another at a pressure of 15 inches of mercury, a third at a pressure
of 10 inches, while a fourth was exhausted as far as a good air-pump
renders exhaustion possible. 'When the first of these was compared with
the other three, the effect was most striking.' It was drawn towards
the axis when the magnet was excited, the tube containing the rarer gas
being apparently driven away, and the greater the difference between the
densities of the two gases, the greater was the energy of this action.

And now observe his mode of reaching a material magnetic zero. When
a bubble of nitrogen was exposed in air in the magnetic field, on the
supervention of the power, the bubble retreated from the magnet. A less
acute observer would have set nitrogen down as diamagnetic; but Faraday
knew that retreat, in a medium composed in part of oxygen, might be due
to the attraction of the latter gas, instead of to the repulsion of the
gas immersed in it. But if nitrogen be really diamagnetic, then a bubble
or bulb filled with the dense gas will overcome one filled with the
rarer gas. From the cross-piece of his torsion-balance he suspended his
bulbs of nitrogen, at equal distances from the magnetic axis, and found
that the rarefaction, or the condensation of the gas in either of the
bulbs had not the slightest influence. When the magnetic force was
developed, the bulbs remained in their first position, even when one
was filled with nitrogen, and the other as far as possible exhausted.
Nitrogen, in fact, acted 'like space itself'; it was neither magnetic
nor diamagnetic.

He cannot conveniently compare the paramagnetic force of oxygen with
iron, in consequence of the exceeding magnetic intensity of the latter
substance; but he does compare it with the sulphate of iron, and finds
that, bulk for bulk, oxygen is equally magnetic with a solution of this
substance in water 'containing seventeen times the weight of the oxygen
in crystallized proto-sulphate of iron, or 3.4 times its weight of
metallic iron in that state of combination.' By its capability to
deflect a fine glass fibre, he finds that the attraction of this bulb
of oxygen, containing only 0.117 of a grain of the gas, at an average
distance of more than an inch from the magnetic axis, is about equal to
the gravitating force of the same amount of oxygen as expressed by its

These facts could not rest for an instant in the mind of Faraday without
receiving that expansion to which I have already referred. 'It is hardly
necessary,' he writes, 'for me to say here that this oxygen cannot exist
in the atmosphere exerting such a remarkable and high amount of magnetic
force, without having a most important influence on the disposition of
the magnetism of the earth, as a planet; especially if it be remembered
that its magnetic condition is greatly altered by variations of its
density and by variations of its temperature. I think I see here the
real cause of many of the variations of that force, which have been, and
are now so carefully watched on different parts of the surface of the
globe. The daily variation, and the annual variation, both seem likely
to come under it; also very many of the irregular continual variations,
which the photographic process of record renders so beautifully
manifest. If such expectations be confirmed, and the influence of the
atmosphere be found able to produce results like these, then we shall
probably find a new relation between the aurora borealis and the
magnetism of the earth, namely, a relation established, more or less,
through the air itself in connection with the space above it; and even
magnetic relations and variations, which are not as yet suspected,
may be suggested and rendered manifest and measurable, in the further
development of what I will venture to call Atmospheric Magnetism. I may
be over-sanguine in these expectations, but as yet I am sustained in
them by the apparent reality, simplicity, and sufficiency of the
cause assumed, as it at present appears to my mind. As soon as I
have submitted these views to a close consideration, and the test of
accordance with observation, and, where applicable, with experiments
also, I will do myself the honour to bring them before the Royal

Two elaborate memoirs are then devoted to the subject of Atmospheric
Magnetism; the first sent to the Royal Society on the 9th of October,
and the second on the 19th of November, 1850. In these memoirs he
discusses the effects of heat and cold upon the magnetism of the air,
and the action on the magnetic needle, which must result from thermal
changes. By the convergence and divergence of the lines of terrestrial
magnetic force, he shows how the distribution of magnetism, in
the earth's atmosphere, is effected. He applies his results to the
explanation of the Annual and of the Diurnal Variation: he also
considers irregular variations, including the action of magnetic storms.
He discusses, at length, the observations at St. Petersburg, Greenwich,
Hobarton, St. Helena, Toronto, and the Cape of Good Hope; believing
that the facts, revealed by his experiments, furnish the key to the
variations observed at all these places.

In the year 1851, I had the honour of an interview with Humboldt, in
Berlin, and his parting words to me then were, 'Tell Faraday that I
entirely agree with him, and that he has, in my opinion, completely
explained the variation of the declination.' Eminent men have since
informed me that Humboldt was hasty in expressing this opinion. In
fact, Faraday's memoirs on atmospheric magnetism lost much of their
force--perhaps too much--through the important discovery of the relation
of the variation of the declination to the number of the solar spots.
But I agree with him and M. Edmond Becquerel, who worked independently
at this subject, in thinking, that a body so magnetic as oxygen,
swathing the earth, and subject to variations of temperature, diurnal
and annual, must affect the manifestations of terrestrial magnetism.[1]
The air that stands upon a single square foot of the earth's surface
is, according to Faraday, equivalent in magnetic force to 8160 lbs.
of crystallized protosulphate of iron. Such a substance cannot be
absolutely neutral as regards the deportment of the magnetic needle. But
Faraday's writings on this subject are so voluminous, and the theoretic
points are so novel and intricate, that I shall postpone the complete
analysis of these researches to a time when I can lay hold of them more
completely than my other duties allow me to do now.

Footnote to Chapter 12

     [1] This persuasion has been greatly strengthened by the
     recent perusal of a paper by Mr. Baxendell.

Chapter 13.

     Speculations: nature of matter: lines of force

The scientific picture of Faraday would not be complete without a
reference to his speculative writings. On Friday, January 19, 1844,
he opened the weekly evening-meetings of the Royal Institution by a
discourse entitled 'A speculation touching Electric Conduction and the
nature of Matter.' In this discourse he not only attempts the overthrow
of Dalton's Theory of Atoms, but also the subversion of all ordinary
scientific ideas regarding the nature and relations of Matter and Force.
He objected to the use of the term atom:--'I have not yet found a
mind,' he says, 'that did habitually separate it from its accompanying
temptations; and there can be no doubt that the words definite
proportions, equivalent, primes, &c., which did and do fully express all
the facts of what is usually called the atomic theory in chemistry, were
dismissed because they were not expressive enough, and did not say all
that was in the mind of him who used the word atom in their stead.'

A moment will be granted me to indicate my own view of Faraday's
position here. The word 'atom' was not used in the stead of definite
proportions, equivalents, or primes. These terms represented facts that
followed from, but were not equivalent to, the atomic theory. Facts
cannot satisfy the mind: and the law of definite combining proportions
being once established, the question 'why should combination take place
according to that law?' is inevitable. Dalton answered this question by
the enunciation of the Atomic Theory, the fundamental idea of which
is, in my opinion, perfectly secure. The objection of Faraday to Dalton
might be urged with the same substantial force against Newton: it might
be stated with regard to the planetary motions that the laws of
Kepler revealed the facts; that the introduction of the principle of
gravitation was an addition to the facts. But this is the essence of
all theory. The theory is the backward guess from fact to principle;
the conjecture, or divination regarding something, which lies behind
the facts, and from which they flow in necessary sequence. If Dalton's
theory, then, account for the definite proportions observed in the
combinations of chemistry, its justification rests upon the same basis
as that of the principle of gravitation. All that can in strictness be
said in either case is that the facts occur as if the principle existed.

The manner in which Faraday himself habitually deals with his hypotheses
is revealed in this lecture. He incessantly employed them to gain
experimental ends, but he incessantly took them down, as an architect
removes the scaffolding when the edifice is complete. 'I cannot but
doubt,' he says, 'that he who as a mere philosopher has most power of
penetrating the secrets of nature, and guessing by hypothesis at her
mode of working, will also be most careful for his own safe progress
and that of others, to distinguish the knowledge which consists of
assumption, by which I mean theory and hypothesis, from that which is
the knowledge of facts and laws.' Faraday himself, in fact, was
always 'guessing by hypothesis,' and making theoretic divination the
stepping-stone to his experimental results.

I have already more than once dwelt on the vividness with which he
realised molecular conditions; we have a fine example of this strength
and brightness of imagination in the present 'speculation.' He grapples
with the notion that matter is made up of particles, not in absolute
contact, but surrounded by interatomic space. 'Space,' he observes,
'must be taken as the only continuous part of a body so constituted.
Space will permeate all masses of matter in every direction like a net,
except that in place of meshes it will form cells, isolating each atom
from its neighbours, itself only being continuous.'

Let us follow out this notion; consider, he argues, the case of a
non-conductor of electricity, such for example as shell-lac, with its
molecules, and intermolecular spaces running through the mass. In its
case space must be an insulator; for if it were a conductor it would
resemble 'a fine metallic web,' penetrating the lac in every direction.
But the fact is that it resembles the wax of black sealing-wax, which
surrounds and insulates the particles of conducting carbon, interspersed
throughout its mass. In the case of shell-lac, therefore, space is an

But now, take the case of a conducting metal. Here we have, as before,
the swathing of space round every atom. If space be an insulator there
can be no transmission of electricity from atom to atom. But there is
transmission; hence space is a conductor. Thus he endeavours to hamper
the atomic theory. 'The reasoning,' he says, 'ends in a subversion of
that theory altogether; for if space be an insulator it cannot exist
in conducting bodies, and if it be a conductor it cannot exist in
insulating bodies. Any ground of reasoning,' he adds, as if carried away
by the ardour of argument, 'which tends to such conclusions as these
must in itself be false.'

He then tosses the atomic theory from horn to horn of his dilemmas. What
do we know, he asks, of the atom apart from its force? You imagine a
nucleus which may be called a, and surround it by forces which may
be called m; 'to my mind the a or nucleus vanishes, and the substance
consists in the powers of m. And indeed what notion can we form of the
nucleus independent of its powers? What thought remains on which to hang
the imagination of an a independent of the acknowledged forces?' Like
Boscovich, he abolishes the atom, and puts a 'centre of force' in its

With his usual courage and sincerity he pushes his view to its utmost
consequences. 'This view of the constitution of matter,' he continues,
'would seem to involve necessarily the conclusion that matter fills
all space, or at least all space to which gravitation extends; for
gravitation is a property of matter dependent on a certain force, and it
is this force which constitutes the matter. In that view matter is
not merely mutually penetrable;[1] but each atom extends, so to say,
throughout the whole of the solar system, yet always retaining its own
centre of force.'

It is the operation of a mind filled with thoughts of this profound,
strange, and subtle character that we have to take into account in
dealing with Faraday's later researches. A similar cast of thought
pervades a letter addressed by Faraday to Mr. Richard Phillips, and
published in the 'Philosophical Magazine' for May, 1846. It is entitled
'Thoughts on Ray-vibrations,' and it contains one of the most singular
speculations that ever emanated from a scientific mind. It must be
remembered here, that though Faraday lived amid such speculations he did
not rate them highly, and that he was prepared at any moment to change
them or let them go. They spurred him on, but they did not hamper him.
His theoretic notions were fluent; and when minds less plastic than his
own attempted to render those fluxional images rigid, he rebelled. He
warns Phillips moreover, that from first to last, 'he merely threw out
as matter for speculation the vague impressions of his mind; for he gave
nothing as the result of sufficient consideration, or as the settled
conviction, or even probable conclusion at which he had arrived.'

The gist of this communication is that gravitating force acts in lines
across space, and that the vibrations of light and radiant heat consist
in the tremors of these lines of force. 'This notion,' he says, 'as far
as it is admitted, will dispense with the ether, which, in another view
is supposed to be the medium in which these vibrations take place.' And
he adds further on, that his view 'endeavours to dismiss the ether but
not the vibrations.' The idea here set forth is the natural supplement
of his previous notion, that it is gravitating force which constitutes
matter, each atom extending, so to say, throughout the whole of the
solar system.

The letter to Mr. Phillips winds up with this beautiful conclusion:--

'I think it likely that I have made many mistakes in the preceding
pages, for even to myself my ideas on this point appear only as the
shadow of a speculation, or as one of those impressions upon the mind
which are allowable for a time as guides to thought and research. He who
labours in experimental inquiries, knows how numerous these are, and how
often their apparent fitness and beauty vanish before the progress and
development of real natural truth.'

Let it then be remembered that Faraday entertained notions regarding
matter and force altogether distinct from the views generally held by
scientific men. Force seemed to him an entity dwelling along the line in
which it is exerted. The lines along which gravity acts between the sun
and earth seem figured in his mind as so many elastic strings; indeed
he accepts the assumed instantaneity of gravity as the expression of the
enormous elasticity of the 'lines of weight.' Such views, fruitful in
the case of magnetism, barren, as yet, in the case of gravity, explain
his efforts to transform this latter force. When he goes into the open
air and permits his helices to fall, to his mind's eye they are
tearing through the lines of gravitating power, and hence his hope and
conviction that an effect would and ought to be produced. It must
ever be borne in mind that Faraday's difficulty in dealing with these
conceptions was at bottom the same as that of Newton; that he is in
fact trying to overleap this difficulty, and with it probably the limits
prescribed to the intellect itself.

The idea of lines of magnetic force was suggested to Faraday by the
linear arrangement of iron filings when scattered over a magnet. He
speaks of and illustrates by sketches, the deflection, both convergent
and divergent, of the lines of force, when they pass respectively
through magnetic and diamagnetic bodies. These notions of concentration
and divergence are also based on the direct observation of his filings.
So long did he brood upon these lines; so habitually did he associate
them with his experiments on induced currents, that the association
became 'indissoluble,' and he could not think without them. 'I have been
so accustomed,' he writes, 'to employ them, and especially in my last
researches, that I may have unwittingly become prejudiced in their
favour, and ceased to be a clear-sighted judge. Still, I have always
endeavoured to make experiment the test and controller of theory
and opinion; but neither by that nor by close cross-examination in
principle, have I been made aware of any error involved in their use.'

In his later researches on magne-crystallic action, the idea of lines of
force is extensively employed; it indeed led him to an experiment which
lies at the root of the whole question. In his subsequent researches on
Atmospheric Magnetism the idea receives still wider application, showing
itself to be wonderfully flexible and convenient. Indeed without this
conception the attempt to seize upon the magnetic actions, possible or
actual, of the atmosphere would be difficult in the extreme; but the
notion of lines of force, and of their divergence and convergence,
guides Faraday without perplexity through all the intricacies of the
question. After the completion of those researches, and in a paper
forwarded to the Royal Society on October 22, 1851, he devotes himself
to the formal development and illustration of his favourite idea. The
paper bears the title, 'On lines of magnetic force, their definite
character, and their distribution within a magnet and through space.'
A deep reflectiveness is the characteristic of this memoir. In his
experiments, which are perfectly beautiful and profoundly suggestive, he
takes but a secondary delight. His object is to illustrate the utility
of his conception of lines of force. 'The study of these lines,' he
says, 'has at different times been greatly influential in leading me to
various results which I think prove their utility as well as fertility.'

Faraday for a long period used the lines of force merely as 'a
representative idea.' He seemed for a time averse to going further in
expression than the lines themselves, however much further he may
have gone in idea. That he believed them to exist at all times round a
magnet, and irrespective of the existence of magnetic matter, such as
iron filings, external to the magnet, is certain. No doubt the space
round every magnet presented itself to his imagination as traversed by
loops of magnetic power; but he was chary in speaking of the physical
substratum of those loops. Indeed it may be doubted whether the physical
theory of lines of force presented itself with any distinctness to his
own mind. The possible complicity of the luminiferous ether in magnetic
phenomena was certainly in his thoughts. 'How the magnetic force,' he
writes, 'is transferred through bodies or through space we know not;
whether the result is merely action at a distance, as in the case of
gravity; or by some intermediate agency, as in the case of light, heat,
the electric current, and (as I believe) static electric action. The
idea of magnetic fluids, as applied by some, or of Magnetic centres of
action, does not include that of the latter kind of transmission, but
the idea of lines of force does.' And he continues thus:--'I am more
inclined to the notion that in the transmission of the [magnetic] force
there is such an action [an intermediate agency] external to the magnet,
than that the effects are merely attraction and repulsion at a distance.
Such an affection may be a function of the ether; for it is not at all
unlikely that, if there be an ether, it should have other uses than
simply the conveyance of radiations.' When he speaks of the magnet in
certain cases, 'revolving amongst its own forces,' he appears to have
some conception of this kind in view.

A great part of the investigation completed in October, 1851, was
taken up with the motions of wires round the poles of a magnet and the
converse. He carried an insulated wire along the axis of a bar magnet
from its pole to its equator, where it issued from the magnet, and was
bent up so as to connect its two ends. A complete circuit, no part of
which was in contact with the magnet, was thus obtained. He found that
when the magnet and the external wire were rotated together no current
was produced; whereas, when either of them was rotated and the other
left at rest currents were evolved. He then abandoned the axial wire,
and allowed the magnet itself to take its place; the result was the
same.[2] It was the relative motion of the magnet and the loop that was
effectual in producing a current.

The lines of force have their roots in the magnet, and though they may
expand into infinite space, they eventually return to the magnet. Now
these lines may be intersected close to the magnet or at a distance from
it. Faraday finds distance to be perfectly immaterial so long as the
number of lines intersected is the same. For example, when the loop
connecting the equator and the pole of his barmagnet performs one
complete revolution round the magnet, it is manifest that all the lines
of force issuing from the magnet are once intersected. Now it matters
not whether the loop be ten feet or ten inches in length, it matters
not how it may be twisted and contorted, it matters not how near to the
magnet or how distant from it the loop may be, one revolution always
produces the same amount of current electricity, because in all
these cases all the lines of force issuing from the magnet are once
intersected and no more.

From the external portion of the circuit he passes in idea to the
internal, and follows the lines of force into the body of the magnet
itself. His conclusion is that there exist lines of force within the
magnet of the same nature as those without. What is more, they are
exactly equal in amount to those without. They have a relation in
direction to those without; and in fact are continuations of them....
'Every line of force, therefore, at whatever distance it may be taken
from the magnet, must be considered as a closed circuit, passing in some
part of its course through the magnet, and having an equal amount of
force in every part of its course.'

All the results here described were obtained with moving metals. 'But,'
he continues with profound sagacity, 'mere motion would not generate a
relation, which had not a foundation in the existence of some previous
state; and therefore the quiescent metals must be in some relation to
the active centre of force,' that is to the magnet. He here touches the
core of the whole question, and when we can state the condition into
which the conducting wire is thrown before it is moved, we shall then
be in a position to understand the physical constitution of the electric
current generated by its motion.

In this inquiry Faraday worked with steel magnets, the force of which
varies with the distance from the magnet. He then sought a uniform field
of magnetic force, and found it in space as affected by the magnetism
of the earth. His next memoir, sent to the Royal Society, December 31,
1851, is 'on the employment of the Induced Magnetoelectro Current as a
test and measure of magnetic forces.' He forms rectangles and rings, and
by ingenious and simple devices collects the opposed currents which are
developed in them by rotation across the terrestrial lines of magnetic
force. He varies the shapes of his rectangles while preserving their
areas constant, and finds that the constant area produces always the
same amount of current per revolution. The current depends solely on
the number of lines of force intersected, and when this number is kept
constant the current remains constant too. Thus the lines of magnetic
force are continually before his eyes, by their aid he colligates his
facts, and through the inspirations derived from them he vastly expands
the boundaries of our experimental knowledge. The beauty and exactitude
of the results of this investigation are extraordinary. I cannot
help thinking while I dwell upon them, that this discovery of
magneto-electricity is the greatest experimental result ever obtained by
an investigator. It is the Mont Blanc of Faraday's own achievements.
He always worked at great elevations, but a higher than this he never
subsequently attained.

Footnotes to Chapter 13

     [1] He compares the interpenetration of two atoms to the
     coalescence of two distinct waves, which though for a moment
     blended to a single mass, preserve their individuality, and
     afterwards separate.

     [2] In this form the experiment is identical with one made
     twenty years earlier.  See page 34.

Chapter 14.

     Unity and convertibility of natural forces: theory of the
     electric current.

The terms unity and convertibility, as applied to natural forces, are
often employed in these investigations, many profound and beautiful
thoughts respecting these subjects being expressed in Faraday's memoirs.
Modern inquiry has, however, much augmented our knowledge of the
relationship of natural forces, and it seems worth while to say a few
words here, tending to clear up certain misconceptions which appear to
exist among philosophic writers regarding this relationship.

The whole stock of energy or working-power in the world consists of
attractions, repulsions, and motions. If the attractions and repulsions
are so circumstanced as to be able to produce motion, they are sources
of working-power, but not otherwise. Let us for the sake of simplicity
confine our attention to the case of attraction. The attraction exerted
between the earth and a body at a distance from the earth's surface is
a source of working-power; because the body can be moved by the
attraction, and in falling to the earth can perform work. When it rests
upon the earth's surface it is not a source of power or energy, because
it can fall no further. But though it has ceased to be a source of
energy, the attraction of gravity still acts as a force, which holds the
earth and weight together.

The same remarks apply to attracting atoms and molecules. As long as
distance separates them, they can move across it in obedience to the
attraction, and the motion thus produced may, by proper appliances,
be caused to perform mechanical work. When, for example, two atoms of
hydrogen unite with one of oxygen, to form water the atoms are first
drawn towards each other--they move, they clash, and then by virtue of
their resiliency, they recoil and quiver. To this quivering motion
we give the name of heat. Now this quivering motion is merely the
redistribution of the motion produced by the chemical affinity; and this
is the only sense in which chemical affinity can be said to be converted
into heat. We must not imagine the chemical attraction destroyed, or
converted into anything else. For the atoms, when mutually clasped to
form a molecule of water, are held together by the very attraction which
first drew them towards each other. That which has really been expended
is the pull exerted through the space by which the distance between the
atoms has been diminished.

If this be understood, it will be at once seen that gravity may in this
sense be said to be convertible into heat; that it is in reality no more
an outstanding and inconvertible agent, as it is sometimes stated to
be, than chemical affinity. By the exertion of a certain pull, through
a certain space, a body is caused to clash with a certain definite
velocity against the earth. Heat is thereby developed, and this is the
only sense in which gravity can be said to be converted into heat. In no
case is the force which produces the motion annihilated or changed into
anything else. The mutual attraction of the earth and weight exists when
they are in contact as when they were separate; but the ability of that
attraction to employ itself in the production of motion does not exist.

The transformation, in this case, is easily followed by the mind's
eye. First, the weight as a whole is set in motion by the attraction
of gravity. This motion of the mass is arrested by collision with the
earth; being broken up into molecular tremors, to which we give the name
of heat.

And when we reverse the process, and employ those tremors of heat to
raise a weight, as is done through the intermediation of an elastic
fluid in the steam-engine, a certain definite portion of the molecular
motion is destroyed in raising the weight. In this sense, and this
sense only, can the heat be said to be converted into gravity, or
more correctly, into potential energy of gravity. It is not that the
destruction of the heat has created any new attraction, but simply that
the old attraction has now a power conferred upon it, of exerting a
certain definite pull in the interval between the starting-point of the
falling weight and its collision with the earth.

So also as regards magnetic attraction: when a sphere of iron placed
at some distance from a magnet rushes towards the magnet, and has its
motion stopped by collision, an effect mechanically the same as that
produced by the attraction of gravity occurs. The magnetic attraction
generates the motion of the mass, and the stoppage of that motion
produces heat. In this sense, and in this sense only, is there a
transformation of magnetic work into heat. And if by the mechanical
action of heat, brought to bear by means of a suitable machine, the
sphere be torn from the magnet and again placed at a distance, a power
of exerting a pull through that distance, and producing a new motion of
the sphere, is thereby conferred upon the magnet; in this sense, and in
this sense only, is the heat converted into magnetic potential energy.

When, therefore, writers on the conservation of energy speak of tensions
being 'consumed' and 'generated,' they do not mean thereby that old
attractions have been annihilated and new ones brought into existence,
but that, in the one case, the power of the attraction to produce
motion has been diminished by the shortening of the distance between
the attracting bodies, and that in the other case the power of producing
motion has been augmented by the increase of the distance. These remarks
apply to all bodies, whether they be sensible masses or molecules.

Of the inner quality that enables matter to attract matter we know
nothing; and the law of conservation makes no statement regarding that
quality. It takes the facts of attraction as they stand, and affirms
only the constancy of working-power. That power may exist in the form
of MOTION; or it may exist in the form of FORCE, with distance to act
through. The former is dynamic energy, the latter is potential
energy, the constancy of the sum of both being affirmed by the law of
conservation. The convertibility of natural forces consists solely
in transformations of dynamic into potential, and of potential into
dynamic, energy, which are incessantly going on. In no other sense has
the convertibility of force, at present, any scientific meaning.

By the contraction of a muscle a man lifts a weight from the earth. But
the muscle can contract only through the oxidation of its own tissue or
of the blood passing through it. Molecular motion is thus converted into
mechanical motion. Supposing the muscle to contract without raising the
weight, oxidation would also occur, but the whole of the heat produced
by this oxidation would be liberated in the muscle itself. Not so when
it performs external work; to do that work a certain definite portion of
the heat of oxidation must be expended. It is so expended in pulling the
weight away from the earth. If the weight be permitted to fall, the heat
generated by its collision with the earth would exactly make up for that
lacking in the muscle during the lifting of the weight. In the case
here supposed, we have a conversion of molecular muscular action into
potential energy of gravity; and a conversion of that potential energy
into heat; the heat, however, appearing at a distance from its real
origin in the muscle. The whole process consists of a transference of
molecular motion from the muscle to the weight, and gravitating force is
the mere go-between, by means of which the transference is effected.

These considerations will help to clear our way to the conception of
the transformations which occur when a wire is moved across the lines
of force in a magnetic field. In this case it is commonly said we have
a conversion of magnetism into electricity. But let us endeavour to
understand what really occurs. For the sake of simplicity, and with a
view to its translation into a different one subsequently, let us adopt
for a moment the provisional conception of a mixed fluid in the wire,
composed of positive and negative electricities in equal quantities, and
therefore perfectly neutralizing each other when the wire is still. By
the motion of the wire, say with the hand, towards the magnet, what the
Germans call a Scheidungs-Kraft--a separating force--is brought into
play. This force tears the mixed fluids asunder, and drives them in
two currents, the one positive and the other negative, in two opposite
directions through the wire. The presence of these currents evokes a
force of repulsion between the magnet and the wire; and to cause the one
to approach the other, this repulsion must be overcome. The overcoming
of this repulsion is, in fact, the work done in separating and impelling
the two electricities. When the wire is moved away from the magnet, a
Scheidungs-Kraft, or separating force, also comes into play; but now it
is an attraction that has to be surmounted. In surmounting it, currents
are developed in directions opposed to the former; positive takes the
place of negative, and negative the place of positive; the overcoming of
the attraction being the work done in separating and impelling the two

The mechanical action occurring here is different from that occurring
where a sphere of soft iron is withdrawn from a magnet, and again
attracted. In this case muscular force is expended during the act of
separation; but the attraction of the magnet effects the reunion. In the
case of the moving wire also we overcome a resistance in separating it
from the magnet, and thus far the action is mechanically the same as the
separation of the sphere of iron. But after the wire has ceased moving,
the attraction ceases; and so far from any action occurring similar to
that which draws the iron sphere back to the magnet, we have to overcome
a repulsion to bring them together.

There is no potential energy conferred either by the removal or by
the approach of the wire, and the only power really transformed or
converted, in the experiment, is muscular power. Nothing that could in
strictness be called a conversion of magnetism into electricity occurs.
The muscular oxidation that moves the wire fails to produce within the
muscle its due amount of heat, a portion of that heat, equivalent to the
resistance overcome, appearing in the moving wire instead.

Is this effect an attraction and a repulsion at a distance? If so, why
should both cease when the wire ceases to move? In fact, the deportment
of the wire resembles far more that of a body moving in a resisting
medium than anything else; the resistance ceasing when the motion is
suspended. Let us imagine the case of a liquid so mobile that the hand
may be passed through it to and fro, without encountering any sensible
resistance. It resembles the motion of a conductor in the unexcited
field of an electro-magnet. Now, let us suppose a body placed in
the liquid, or acting on it, which confers upon it the property of
viscosity; the hand would no longer move freely. During its motion, but
then only, resistance would be encountered and overcome. Here we have
rudely represented the case of the excited magnetic field, and the
result in both cases would be substantially the same. In both cases heat
would, in the end, be generated outside of the muscle, its amount being
exactly equivalent to the resistance overcome.

Let us push the analogy a little further; suppose in the case of the
fluid rendered viscous, as assumed a moment ago, the viscosity not to be
so great as to prevent the formation of ripples when the hand is passed
through the liquid. Then the motion of the hand, before its final
conversion into heat, would exist for a time as wave-motion, which, on
subsiding, would generate its due equivalent of heat. This intermediate
stage, in the case of our moving wire, is represented by the period
during which the electric current is flowing through it; but that
current, like the ripples of our liquid, soon subsides, being, like
them, converted into heat.

Do these words shadow forth anything like the reality? Such speculations
cannot be injurious if they are enunciated without dogmatism. I do
confess that ideas such as these here indicated exercise a strong
fascination on my mind. Is then the magnetic field really viscous,
and if so, what substance exists in it and the wire to produce the
viscosity? Let us first look at the proved effects, and afterwards turn
our thoughts back upon their cause. When the wire approaches the magnet,
an action is evoked within it, which travels through it with a velocity
comparable to that of light. One substance only in the universe has
been hitherto proved competent to transmit power at this velocity;
the luminiferous ether. Not only its rapidity of progression, but its
ability to produce the motion of light and heat, indicates that the
electric current is also motion.[1] Further, there is a striking
resemblance between the action of good and bad conductors as regards
electricity, and the action of diathermanous and adiathermanous bodies
as regards radiant heat. The good conductor is diathermanous to the
electric current; it allows free transmission without the development of
heat. The bad conductor is adiathermanous to the electric current, and
hence the passage of the latter is accompanied by the development of
heat. I am strongly inclined to hold the electric current, pure and
simple, to be a motion of the ether alone; good conductors being so
constituted that the motion may be propagated through their ether
without sensible transfer to their atoms, while in the case of bad
conductors this transfer is effected, the transferred motion appearing
as heat.[2]

I do not know whether Faraday would have subscribed to what is here
written; probably his habitual caution would have prevented him from
committing himself to anything so definite. But some such idea filled
his mind and coloured his language through all the later years of his
life. I dare not say that he has been always successful in the treatment
of these theoretic notions. In his speculations he mixes together light
and darkness in varying proportions, and carries us along with him
through strong alternations of both. It is impossible to say how a
certain amount of mathematical training would have affected his work.
We cannot say what its influence would have been upon that force of
inspiration that urged him on; whether it would have daunted him, and
prevented him from driving his adits into places where no theory pointed
to a lode. If so, then we may rejoice that this strong delver at the
mine of natural knowledge was left free to wield his mattock in his own
way. It must be admitted, that Faraday's purely speculative writings
often lack that precision which the mathematical habit of thought
confers. Still across them flash frequent gleams of prescient wisdom
which will excite admiration throughout all time; while the facts,
relations, principles, and laws which his experiments have established
are sure to form the body of grand theories yet to come.

Footnotes to Chapter 14

     [1] Mr. Clerk Maxwell has recently published an exceedingly
     important investigation connected with this question.  Even
     in the non-mathematical portions of the memoirs of Mr.
     Maxwell, the admirable spirit of his philosophy is
     sufficiently revealed. As regards the employment of
     scientific imagery, I hardly know his equal in power of
     conception and clearness of definition.

     [2] One important difference, of course, exists between the
     effect of motion in the magnetic field, and motion in a
     resisting medium. In the former case the heat is generated
     in the moving conductor, in the latter it is in part
     generated in the medium.

Chapter 15.


When from an Alpine height the eye of the climber ranges over the
mountains, he finds that for the most part they resolve themselves into
distinct groups, each consisting of a dominant mass surrounded by peaks
of lesser elevation. The power which lifted the mightier eminences, in
nearly all cases lifted others to an almost equal height. And so it is
with the discoveries of Faraday. As a general rule, the dominant result
does not stand alone, but forms the culminating point of a vast and
varied mass of inquiry. In this way, round about his great discovery of
Magneto-electric Induction, other weighty labours group themselves. His
investigations on the Extra Current; on the Polar and other Condition of
Diamagnetic Bodies; on Lines of Magnetic Force, their definite character
and distribution; on the employment of the Induced Magneto-electric
Current as a measure and test of Magnetic Action; on the Revulsive
Phenomena of the magnetic field, are all, notwithstanding the diversity
of title, researches in the domain of Magneto-electric Induction.

Faraday's second group of researches and discoveries embrace the
chemical phenomena of the current. The dominant result here is the great
law of definite Electro-chemical Decomposition, around which are massed
various researches on Electro-chemical Conduction and on Electrolysis
both with the Machine and with the Pile. To this group also belongs
his analysis of the Contact Theory, his inquiries as to the Source of
Voltaic Electricity, and his final development of the Chemical Theory of
the pile.

His third great discovery is the Magnetization of Light, which I should
liken to the Weisshorn among mountains--high, beautiful, and alone.

The dominant result of his fourth group of researches is the discovery
of Diamagnetism, announced in his memoir as the Magnetic Condition of
all Matter, round which are grouped his inquiries on the Magnetism
of Flame and Gases; on Magne-crystallic action, and on Atmospheric
Magnetism, in its relations to the annual and diurnal variation of the
needle, the full significance of which is still to be shown.

These are Faraday's most massive discoveries, and upon them his fame
must mainly rest. But even without them, sufficient would remain to
secure for him a high and lasting scientific reputation. We should
still have his researches on the Liquefaction of Gases; on Frictional
Electricity; on the Electricity of the Gymnotus; on the source of
Power in the Hydro-electric machine, the last two investigations being
untouched in the foregoing memoir; on Electro-magnetic Rotations; on
Regelation; all his more purely Chemical Researches, including his
discovery of Benzol. Besides these he published a multitude of minor
papers, most of which, in some way or other, illustrate his genius. I
have made no allusion to his power and sweetness as a lecturer. Taking
him for all in all, I think it will be conceded that Michael Faraday
was the greatest experimental philosopher the world has ever seen; and
I will add the opinion, that the progress of future research will tend,
not to dim or to diminish, but to enhance and glorify the labours of
this mighty investigator.

Chapter 16.

    Illustrations of Character.

Thus far I have confined myself to topics mainly interesting to the man
of science, endeavouring, however, to treat them in a manner unrepellent
to the general reader who might wish to obtain a notion of Faraday as
a worker. On others will fall the duty of presenting to the world
a picture of the man. But I know you will permit me to add to the
foregoing analysis a few personal reminiscences and remarks, tending to
connect Faraday with a wider world than that of science--namely, with
the general human heart.

One word in reference to his married life, in addition to what has been
already said, may find a place here. As in the former case, Faraday
shall be his own spokesman. The following paragraph, though written in
the third person, is from his hand:--'On June 12, 1821, he married, an
event which more than any other contributed to his earthly happiness and
healthful state of mind. The union has continued for twenty-eight years
and has in no wise changed, except in the depth and strength of its

Faraday's immediate forefathers lived in a little place called Clapham
Wood Hall, in Yorkshire. Here dwelt Robert Faraday and Elizabeth his
wife, who had ten children, one of them, James Faraday, born in 1761,
being father to the philosopher. A family tradition exists that the
Faradays came originally from Ireland. Faraday himself has more than
once expressed to me his belief that his blood was in part Celtic, but
how much of it was so, or when the infusion took place, he was unable to
say. He could imitate the Irish brogue, and his wonderful vivacity may
have been in part due to his extraction. But there were other qualities
which we should hardly think of deriving from Ireland. The most
prominent of these was his sense of order, which ran like a luminous
beam through all the transactions of his life. The most entangled and
complicated matters fell into harmony in his hands. His mode of
keeping accounts excited the admiration of the managing board of this
Institution. And his science was similarly ordered. In his Experimental
Researches, he numbered every paragraph, and welded their various parts
together by incessant reference. His private notes of the Experimental
Researches, which are happily preserved, are similarly numbered: their
last paragraph bears the figure 16,041. His working qualities, moreover,
showed the tenacity of the Teuton. His nature was impulsive, but there
was a force behind the impulse which did not permit it to retreat. If in
his warm moments he formed a resolution, in his cool ones he made that
resolution good. Thus his fire was that of a solid combustible, not that
of a gas, which blazes suddenly, and dies as suddenly away.

And here I must claim your tolerance for the limits by which I am
confined. No materials for a life of Faraday are in my hands, and what
I have now to say has arisen almost wholly out of our close personal

Letters of his, covering a period of sixteen years, are before me,
each one of which contains some characteristic utterance;--strong, yet
delicate in counsel, joyful in encouragement, and warm in affection.
References which would be pleasant to such of them as still live are
made to Humboldt, Biot, Dumas, Chevreul, Magnus, and Arago. Accident
brought these names prominently forward; but many others would be
required to complete his list of continental friends. He prized the love
and sympathy of men--prized it almost more than the renown which his
science brought him. Nearly a dozen years ago it fell to my lot to
write a review of his 'Experimental Researches' for the 'Philosophical
Magazine.' After he had read it, he took me by the hand, and said,
'Tyndall, the sweetest reward of my work is the sympathy and good will
which it has caused to flow in upon me from all quarters of the world.'
Among his letters I find little sparks of kindness, precious to no one
but myself, but more precious to me than all. He would peep into the
laboratory when he thought me weary, and take me upstairs with him to
rest. And if I happened to be absent, he would leave a little note for
me, couched in this or some other similar form:--'Dear Tyndall,--I was
looking for you, because we were at tea--we have not yet done--will you
come up?' I frequently shared his early dinner; almost always, in fact,
while my lectures were going on. There was no trace of asceticism in his
nature. He preferred the meat and wine of life to its locusts and wild
honey. Never once during an intimacy of fifteen years did he mention
religion to me, save when I drew him on to the subject. He then spoke
to me without hesitation or reluctance; not with any apparent desire to
'improve the occasion,' but to give me such information as I sought.
He believed the human heart to be swayed by a power to which science
or logic opened no approach, and, right or wrong, this faith, held in
perfect tolerance of the faiths of others, strengthened and beautified
his life.

From the letters just referred to, I will select three for publication
here. I choose the first, because it contains a passage revealing the
feelings with which Faraday regarded his vocation, and also because it
contains an allusion which will give pleasure to a friend.

'Royal Institution. [ this is crossed out by Faraday ]

'Ventnor, Isle of Wight, June 28, 1854.

'My Dear Tyndall,--You see by the top of this letter how much habit
prevails over me; I have just read yours from thence, and yet I think
myself there. However, I have left its science in very good keeping, and
I am glad to learn that you are at experiment once more. But how is the
health? Not well, I fear. I wish you would get yourself strong first
and work afterwards. As for the fruits, I am sure they will be good, for
though I sometimes despond as regards myself, I do not as regards you.
You are young, I am old.... But then our subjects are so glorious,
that to work at them rejoices and encourages the feeblest; delights and
enchants the strongest.

'I have not yet seen anything from Magnus. Thoughts of him always
delight me. We shall look at his black sulphur together. I heard from
Schonbein the other day. He tells me that Liebig is full of ozone, i.e.,
of allotropic oxygen.

'Good-bye for the present.

'Ever, my dear Tyndall,

'Yours truly,

'M. Faraday.'

The contemplation of Nature, and his own relation to her, produced in
Faraday a kind of spiritual exaltation which makes itself manifest here.
His religious feeling and his philosophy could not be kept apart; there
was an habitual overflow of the one into the other.

Whether he or another was its exponent, he appeared to take equal
delight in science. A good experiment would make him almost dance with
delight. In November, 1850, he wrote to me thus:--'I hope some day to
take up the point respecting the magnetism of associated particles.
In the meantime I rejoice at every addition to the facts and reasoning
connected with the subject. When science is a republic, then it gains:
and though I am no republican in other matters, I am in that.' All his
letters illustrate this catholicity of feeling. Ten years ago, when
going down to Brighton, he carried with him a little paper I had just
completed, and afterwards wrote to me. His letter is a mere sample of
the sympathy which he always showed to me and my work.

'Brighton, December 9, 1857.

'My Dear Tyndall,--I cannot resist the pleasure of saying how very much
I have enjoyed your paper. Every part has given me delight. It goes on
from point to point beautifully. You will find many pencil marks, for I
made them as I read. I let them stand, for though many of them receive
their answer as the story proceeds, yet they show how the wording
impresses a mind fresh to the subject, and perhaps here and there you
may like to alter it slightly, if you wish the full idea, i.e., not an
inaccurate one, to be suggested at first; and yet after all I believe
it is not your exposition, but the natural jumping to a conclusion that
affects or has affected my pencil.

'We return on Friday, when I will return you the paper.

'Ever truly yours,

'M. Faraday.'

The third letter will come in its proper place towards the end.

While once conversing with Faraday on science, in its relations to
commerce and litigation, he said to me, that at a certain period of his
career, he was forced definitely to ask himself, and finally to decide
whether he should make wealth or science the pursuit of his life. He
could not serve both masters, and he was therefore compelled to choose
between them. After the discovery of magneto-electricity his fame was
so noised abroad, that the commercial world would hardly have considered
any remuneration too high for the aid of abilities like his. Even before
he became so famous, he had done a little 'professional business.' This
was the phrase he applied to his purely commercial work. His friend,
Richard Phillips, for example, had induced him to undertake a number of
analyses, which produced, in the year 1830, an addition to his income
of more than a thousand pounds; and in 1831 a still greater addition. He
had only to will it to raise in 1832 his professional business income
to 5000L. a year. Indeed double this sum would be a wholly insufficient
estimate of what he might, with ease, have realised annually during the
last thirty years of his life.

While restudying the Experimental Researches with reference to the
present memoir, the conversation with Faraday here alluded to came to
my recollection, and I sought to ascertain the period when the question,
'wealth or science,' had presented itself with such emphasis to his
mind. I fixed upon the year 1831 or 1832, for it seemed beyond the range
of human power to pursue science as he had done during the subsequent
years, and to pursue commercial work at the same time. To test this
conclusion I asked permission to see his accounts, and on my own
responsibility, I will state the result. In 1832, his professional
business income, instead of rising to 5000L., or more, fell from 1090L.
4s. to 155L. 9s. From this it fell with slight oscillations to 92L. in
1837, and to zero in 1838. Between 1839 and 1845, it never, except in
one instance, exceeded 22L.; being for the most part much under this.
The exceptional year referred to was that in which he and Sir Charles
Lyell were engaged by Government to write a report on the Haswell
Colliery explosion, and then his business income rose to 112L. From
the end of 1845 to the day of his death, Faraday's annual professional
business income was exactly zero. Taking the duration of his life into
account, this son of a blacksmith, and apprentice to a bookbinder,
had to decide between a fortune of 150,000L. on the one side, and his
undowered science on the other. He chose the latter, and died a poor
man. But his was the glory of holding aloft among the nations the
scientific name of England for a period of forty years.

The outward and visible signs of fame were also of less account to him
than to most men. He had been loaded with scientific honours from all
parts of the world. Without, I imagine, a dissentient voice, he was
regarded as the prince of the physical investigators of the present age.
The highest scientific position in this country he had, however, never
filled. When the late excellent and lamented Lord Wrottesley resigned
the presidency of the Royal Society, a deputation from the council,
consisting of his Lordship, Mr. Grove, and Mr. Gassiot, waited upon
Faraday, to urge him to accept the president's chair. All that argument
or friendly persuasion could do was done to induce him to yield to the
wishes of the council, which was also the unanimous wish of scientific
men. A knowledge of the quickness of his own nature had induced in
Faraday the habit of requiring an interval of reflection, before he
decided upon any question of importance. In the present instance he
followed his usual habit, and begged for a little time.

On the following morning, I went up to his room and said on entering
that I had come to him with some anxiety of mind. He demanded its cause,
and I responded:--'Lest you should have decided against the wishes of
the deputation that waited on you yesterday.' 'You would not urge me to
undertake this responsibility,' he said. 'I not only urge you,' was my
reply, 'but I consider it your bounden duty to accept it.' He spoke of
the labour that it would involve; urged that it was not in his nature to
take things easy; and that if he became president, he would surely have
to stir many new questions, and agitate for some changes. I said that in
such cases he would find himself supported by the youth and strength
of the Royal Society. This, however, did not seem to satisfy him. Mrs.
Faraday came into the room, and he appealed to her. Her decision was
adverse, and I deprecated her decision. 'Tyndall,' he said at length, 'I
must remain plain Michael Faraday to the last; and let me now tell you,
that if I accepted the honour which the Royal Society desires to confer
upon me, I would not answer for the integrity of my intellect for a
single year.' I urged him no more, and Lord Wrottesley had a most worthy
successor in Sir Benjamin Brodie.

After the death of the Duke of Northumberland, our Board of Managers
wished to see Mr. Faraday finish his career as President of the
Institution, which he had entered on weekly wages more than half a
century before. But he would have nothing to do with the presidency. He
wished for rest, and the reverent affection of his friends was to him
infinitely more precious than all the honours of official life.

The first requisite of the intellectual life of Faraday was the
independence of his mind; and though prompt to urge obedience where
obedience was due, with every right assertion of manhood he intensely
sympathized. Even rashness on the side of honour found from him ready
forgiveness, if not open applause. The wisdom of years, tempered by a
character of this kind, rendered his counsel peculiarly precious to
men sensitive like himself. I often sought that counsel, and, with
your permission, will illustrate its character by one or two typical

In 1855, I was appointed examiner under the Council for Military
Education. At that time, as indeed now, I entertained strong convictions
as to the enormous utility of physical science to officers of artillery
and engineers, and whenever opportunity offered, I expressed this
conviction without reserve. I did not think the recognition, though
considerable, accorded to physical science in those examinations at
all proportionate to its importance; and this probably rendered me more
jealous than I otherwise should have been of its claims.

In Trinity College, Dublin, a school had been organized with reference
to the Woolwich examinations, and a large number of exceedingly
well-instructed young gentlemen were sent over from Dublin, to compete
for appointments in the artillery and the engineers. The result of
one examination was particularly satisfactory to me; indeed the marks
obtained appeared so eloquent that I forbore saying a word about them.
My colleagues, however, followed the usual custom of sending in brief
reports with their returns of marks. After the results were published,
a leading article appeared in 'The Times,' in which the reports were
largely quoted, praise being bestowed on all the candidates, except the
excellent young fellows who had passed through my hands.

A letter from Trinity College drew my attention to this article,
bitterly complaining that whereas the marks proved them to be the best
of all, the science candidates were wholly ignored. I tried to set
matters right by publishing, on my own responsibility, a letter in
'The Times.' The act, I knew, could not bear justification from the War
Office point of view; and I expected and risked the displeasure of my
superiors. The merited reprimand promptly came. 'Highly as the Secretary
of State for War might value the expression of Professor Tyndall's
opinion, he begged to say that an examiner, appointed by His Royal
Highness the Commander-in-Chief, had no right to appear in the public
papers as Professor Tyndall has done, without the sanction of the War
Office.' Nothing could be more just than this reproof, but I did not
like to rest under it. I wrote a reply, and previous to sending it took
it up to Faraday. We sat together before his fire, and he looked very
earnest as he rubbed his hands and pondered. The following conversation
then passed between us:--

F. You certainly have received a reprimand, Tyndall; but the matter is
over, and if you wish to accept the reproof, you will hear no more about

T. But I do not wish to accept it.

F. Then you know what the consequence of sending that letter will be?

T. I do.

F. They will dismiss you.

T. I know it.

F. Then send the letter!

The letter was firm, but respectful; it acknowledged the justice of the
censure, but expressed neither repentance nor regret. Faraday, in
his gracious way, slightly altered a sentence or two to make it more
respectful still. It was duly sent, and on the following day I entered
the Institution with the conviction that my dismissal was there before
me. Weeks, however, passed. At length the well-known envelope appeared,
and I broke the seal, not doubting the contents. They were very
different from what I expected. 'The Secretary of State for War has
received Professor Tyndall's letter, and deems the explanation therein
given perfectly satisfactory.' I have often wished for an opportunity of
publicly acknowledging this liberal treatment, proving, as it did, that
Lord Panmure could discern and make allowance for a good intention,
though it involved an offence against routine. For many years
subsequently it was my privilege to act under that excellent body, the
Council for Military Education.

On another occasion of this kind, having encouraged me in a somewhat
hardy resolution I had formed, Faraday backed his encouragement by an
illustration drawn from his own life. The subject will interest you, and
it is so sure to be talked about in the world, that no avoidable harm
can rise from its introduction here.

In the year 1835, Sir Robert Peel wished to offer Faraday a pension, but
that great statesman quitted office before he was able to realise his
wish. The Minister who founded these pensions intended them, I believe,
to be marks of honour which even proud men might accept without
compromise of independence. When, however, the intimation first
reached Faraday in an unofficial way, he wrote a letter announcing his
determination to decline the pension; and stating that he was quite
competent to earn his livelihood himself. That letter still exists, but
it was never sent, Faraday's repugnance having been overruled by
his friends. When Lord Melbourne came into office, he desired to see
Faraday; and probably in utter ignorance of the man--for unhappily for
them and us, Ministers of State in England are only too often ignorant
of great Englishmen--his Lordship said something that must have deeply
displeased his visitor. All the circumstances were once communicated to
me, but I have forgotten the details. The term 'humbug,' I think, was
incautiously employed by his Lordship, and other expressions were used
of a similar kind. Faraday quitted the Minister with his own resolves,
and that evening he left his card and a short and decisive note at the
residence of Lord Melbourne, stating that he had manifestly mistaken his
Lordship's intention of honouring science in his person, and declining
to have anything whatever to do with the proposed pension. The
good-humoured nobleman at first considered the matter a capital joke;
but he was afterwards led to look at it more seriously. An excellent
lady, who was a friend both to Faraday and the Minister, tried to
arrange matters between them; but she found Faraday very difficult to
move from the position he had assumed. After many fruitless efforts, she
at length begged of him to state what he would require of Lord Melbourne
to induce him to change his mind. He replied, 'I should require from his
Lordship what I have no right or reason to expect that he would grant--a
written apology for the words he permitted himself to use to me.' The
required apology came, frank and full, creditable, I thought, alike to
the Prime Minister and the philosopher.

Considering the enormous strain imposed on Faraday's intellect, the
boy-like buoyancy even of his later years was astonishing. He was often
prostrate, but he had immense resiliency, which he brought into action
by getting away from London whenever his health failed. I have already
indicated the thoughts which filled his mind during the evening of his
life. He brooded on magnetic media and lines of force; and the great
object of the last investigation he ever undertook was the decision of
the question whether magnetic force requires time for its propagation.
How he proposed to attack this subject we may never know. But he has
left some beautiful apparatus behind; delicate wheels and pinions,
and associated mirrors, which were to have been employed in the
investigation. The mere conception of such an inquiry is an illustration
of his strength and hopefulness, and it is impossible to say to what
results it might have led him. But the work was too heavy for his tired
brain. It was long before he could bring himself to relinquish it and
during this struggle he often suffered from fatigue of mind. It was at
this period, and before he resigned himself to the repose which marked
the last two years of his life, that he wrote to me the following
letter--one of many priceless letters now before me--which reveals, more
than anything another pen could express, the state of his mind at the
time. I was sometimes censured in his presence for my doings in the
Alps, but his constant reply was, 'Let him alone, he knows how to take
care of himself.' In this letter, anxiety on this score reveals itself
for the first time.

'Hampton Court, August 1, 1864.

'My Dear Tyndall,--I do not know whether my letter will catch you, but I
will risk it, though feeling very unfit to communicate with a man whose
life is as vivid and active as yours; but the receipt of your kind
letter makes me to know that, though I forget, I am not forgotten, and
though I am not able to remember at the end of a line what was said at
the beginning of it, the imperfect marks will convey to you some sense
of what I long to say. We had heard of your illness through Miss Moore,
and I was therefore very glad to learn that you are now quite well;
do not run too many risks or make your happiness depend too much upon
dangers, or the hunting of them. Sometimes the very thinking of you, and
what you may be about, wearies me with fears, and then the cogitations
pause and change, but without giving me rest. I know that much of this
depends upon my own worn-out nature, and I do not know why I write
it, save that when I write to you I cannot help thinking it, and the
thoughts stand in the way of other matter.

* * * * *

'See what a strange desultory epistle I am writing to you, and yet I
feel so weary that I long to leave my desk and go to the couch.

'My dear wife and Jane desire their kindest remembrances: I hear them in
the next room:... I forget--but not you, my dear Tyndall, for I am

'Ever yours,

'M. Faraday.'

This weariness subsided when he relinquished his work, and I have a
cheerful letter from him, written in the autumn of 1865. But towards
the close of that year he had an attack of illness, from which he never
completely rallied. He continued to attend the Friday Evening Meetings,
but the advance of infirmity was apparent to us all. Complete rest
became finally essential to him, and he ceased to appear among us. There
was no pain in his decline to trouble the memory of those who loved him.
Slowly and peacefully he sank towards his final rest, and when it came,
his death was a falling asleep. In the fulness of his honours and of his
age he quitted us; the good fight fought, the work of duty--shall I not
say of glory?--done. The 'Jane' referred to in the foregoing letter is
Faraday's niece, Miss Jane Barnard, who with an affection raised almost
to religious devotion watched him and tended him to the end.

I saw Mr. Faraday for the first time on my return from Marburg in 1850.
I came to the Royal Institution, and sent up my card, with a copy of the
paper which Knoblauch and myself had just completed. He came down and
conversed with me for half an hour. I could not fail to remark the
wonderful play of intellect and kindly feeling exhibited by his
countenance. When he was in good health the question of his age would
never occur to you. In the light and laughter of his eyes you never
thought of his grey hairs. He was then on the point of publishing one
of his papers on Magnecrystallic action, and he had time to refer in
a flattering Note to the memoir I placed in his hands. I returned to
Germany, worked there for nearly another year, and in June, 1851, came
back finally from Berlin to England. Then, for the first time, and on my
way to the meeting of the British Association, at Ipswich, I met a man
who has since made his mark upon the intellect of his time; who has long
been, and who by the strong law of natural affinity must continue to
be, a brother to me. We were both without definite outlook at the time,
needing proper work, and only anxious to have it to perform. The chairs
of Natural History and of Physics being advertised as vacant in the
University of Toronto, we applied for them, he for the one, I for the
other; but, possibly guided by a prophetic instinct, the University
authorities declined having anything to do with either of us. If I
remember aright, we were equally unlucky elsewhere.

One of Faraday's earliest letters to me had reference to this Toronto
business, which he thought it unwise in me to neglect. But Toronto had
its own notions, and in 1853, at the instance of Dr. Bence Jones, and on
the recommendation of Faraday himself, a chair of Physics at the Royal
Institution was offered to me. I was tempted at the same time to go
elsewhere, but a strong attraction drew me to his side. Let me say
that it was mainly his and other friendships, precious to me beyond all
expression, that caused me to value my position here more highly than
any other that could be offered to me in this land. Nor is it for its
honour, though surely that is great, but for the strong personal ties
that bind me to it, that I now chiefly prize this place. You might not
credit me were I to tell you how lightly I value the honour of being
Faraday's successor compared with the honour of having been Faraday's
friend. His friendship was energy and inspiration; his 'mantle' is a
burden almost too heavy to be borne.

Sometimes during the last year of his life, by the permission or
invitation of Mrs. Faraday, I went up to his rooms to see him. The deep
radiance, which in his time of strength flashed with such extraordinary
power from his countenance, had subsided to a calm and kindly light, by
which my latest memory of him is warmed and illuminated. I knelt one day
beside him on the carpet and placed my hand upon his knee; he stroked
it affectionately, smiled, and murmured, in a low soft voice, the last
words that I remember as having been spoken to me by Michael Faraday.

It was my wish and aspiration to play the part of Schiller to this
Goethe: and he was at times so strong and joyful--his body so active,
and his intellect so clear--as to suggest to me the thought that
he, like Goethe, would see the younger man laid low. Destiny ruled
otherwise, and now he is but a memory to us all. Surely no memory could
be more beautiful. He was equally rich in mind and heart. The
fairest traits of a character sketched by Paul, found in him perfect
illustration. For he was 'blameless, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour,
apt to teach, not given to filthy lucre.' He had not a trace of worldly
ambition; he declared his duty to his Sovereign by going to the levee
once a year, but beyond this he never sought contact with the great.
The life of his spirit and of his intellect was so full, that the things
which men most strive after were absolutely indifferent to him. 'Give me
health and a day,' says the brave Emerson, 'and I will make the pomp of
emperors ridiculous.' In an eminent degree Faraday could say the same.
What to him was the splendour of a palace compared with a thunderstorm
upon Brighton Downs?--what among all the appliances of royalty to
compare with the setting sun? I refer to a thunderstorm and a sunset,
because these things excited a kind of ecstasy in his mind, and to
a mind open to such ecstasy the pomps and pleasures of the world are
usually of small account. Nature, not education, rendered Faraday strong
and refined. A favourite experiment of his own was representative of
himself. He loved to show that water in crystallizing excluded all
foreign ingredients, however intimately they might be mixed with it. Out
of acids, alkalis, or saline solutions, the crystal came sweet and pure.
By some such natural process in the formation of this man, beauty and
nobleness coalesced, to the exclusion of everything vulgar and low. He
did not learn his gentleness in the world, for he withdrew himself from
its culture; and still this land of England contained no truer gentleman
than he. Not half his greatness was incorporate in his science, for
science could not reveal the bravery and delicacy of his heart.

But it is time that I should end these weak words, and lay my poor
garland on the grave of this

         Just and faithful knight of God.

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use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.