‘A Life of Discovery’: Michael Faraday

Timothy Ferris reviews A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution, by James Hamilton, in the New York Times Book Review:

FaradayIn 1812 a bookbindery customer gave Faraday tickets to four lectures at the Royal Institution by Humphry Davy, the medium’s superstar. Glimpsing a future for himself (he would eventually succeed Davy as England’s most famous scientist and popularizer), Faraday printed notes he took at the lectures and presented them to Davy bound in leather, along with a letter expressing, as Faraday later wrote, ”my desire to escape from trade, which I thought vicious and selfish, and to enter into the service of Science, which I imagined made its pursuers amiable and liberal.”

Davy, widely regarded as the foremost chemist of his day, was skeptical about employing a lad who had little schooling and knew nothing of mathematics, but when a brawl obliged him to fire the laboratory ”fag and scrub” he hired Faraday. Faraday took a pay cut but gained two attic rooms, free coal and candles and access to the Royal Institution’s laboratory.

More here.