Boy's Own Paper,  1 (1879), 260–62.

Some Boys Who Became Famous. III—The Errand-Boy of Jacob's Well Muse

The Author of "The Boys of Highfield", etc.


Regular Feature, Essay

Relevant illustrations:

wdct. [2]


J M G R, pseud.  [J M G R]


Scientific Practitioners, Physics, Class, Heroism, Creativity, Endeavour, Electricity, Discovery, Electromagnetism, Reading, Instruments, Laboratories, Religion, Piety, Endeavour, Commerce, Force, Magnetism, Gravity, Light, Heat

    Begins by noting that when the subject of the article, Michael Faraday, was fourteen he built an electrical machine that still sits in the Royal Institution. Noting that electricity 'was in its infancy' in this period, describes the researches of Benjamin Franklin and Luigi Galvani, although points out that it remained for Faraday to 'become the most honoured and renowned discoverer' of electromagnetism. Describes Faraday's early life, notably his apprenticeship to a bookbinder's, his reading of his 'master's books' which 'unlocked the chambers of his understanding' and 'opened before him the glorious prospect of science'. Emphasises how Faraday did not tire of experimenting with the crude chemical apparatus he was able to afford and, at 'lectures on natural philosophy', took notes and 'discovered happily that mental food requires digestion'. (260) Goes on to describe how Humphry Davy came to hire Faraday as his assistant at the Royal Institution, and notes how Davy promised Faraday work 'from the Institution and himself' owing to the fact that 'science does not pay'. Emphasises that Faraday was not merely a bottle-washer, but somebody who 'made himself invaluable by finding out work that needed doing'. Despite the fact that explosions almost injured him, Faraday enjoyed a 'glorious life', accompanying Davy to the Continent, and displaying a 'quiet, earnest way [...] of showing his humble trust in God'. Upholds his 'place in science' as a 'discoverer' rather than somebody who applied such discoveries 'to the practical uses of daily life', and notes that his work 'was that of mastering the mysteries of hidden forces'. Proceeds to present some anecdotes from John H Gladstone's 'delightful recollections' (a reference to Gladstone 1872 which it later recommends) showing Faraday's modesty and kind-heartedness. Notes Faraday's fame and the innumerable scientific honours that were conferred upon him and emphasises that his 'chief triumphs' were 'undoubtedly' the liquefaction and solidification of gases and his 'experimental researches on electricity'. (261). Turns to his humble Christian life, insisting that his chief aim was 'doing good', and presents some of the pious remarks that he made during his last years. Concludes with a long extract from Jones 1869 describing the 'beauty and nobleness' of Faraday's character, his kindness, energy, and strong religious feeling. (262) One of the illustrations is taken from the celebrated Maull and Polyblank 1857 photographic portrait of Faraday holding a bar magnet, and a cut showing an elderly Faraday in a thoroughfare talking to three young boys who look up at him in reverence.

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