Do you have photos of people you admire on your wall? Albert Einstein, the world’s most famous scientist, did — and his pictures included Michael Faraday, the inventor of the electric motor.
Faraday came from a poor family and didn’t get much schooling. He worked as a delivery boy for a bookstore. The owner encouraged him to read, so Faraday educated himself. He later got a job with one of England’s most renowned scientists, Sir Humphry Davy, and learned even more.
Many scientists in the early 1800s were studying electromagnetism — the relationship between electric and magnetic fields. In 1821, Faraday invented the electric motor, which used electricity and magnets to provide power.
Ten years later, in 1831, Faraday discovered that if he moved a magnet near a wire, the changing magnetic field made an electric current flow in the wire. This led Faraday to invent the electric generator, which paved the way for power plants that made electricity widely available.
Faraday became the best-known scientist of his time. His accomplishments included making important discoveries in the field of light and discovering the compound benzene (an important part of oil). Many of Faraday’s experiments didn’t work, but he was never discouraged. He believed failure teaches as much as success.
Faraday’s invention, the generator, powered appliances, factories, lights and much more. Thomas Edison opened the first full-scale power plant in 1882 — the generator it used was a large version of Faraday’s. Guglielmo Marconi used Faraday’s work to send a radio message across the Atlantic Ocean in 1901.
For almost 100 years before Faraday’s experiments, scientists had worked with electricity, but no one was able to make a practical invention that used electricity. Faraday put electricity to work. No wonder scientists say he was the father of the modern age of electricity.