03.04.2015
13:34

The Faraday Museum

Address:

21 Albemarle Street, W1S 4BS

Phone:

020-7409 2992

Website:

www.rigb.org/visit-us/faraday-museum

Opening times:

Mon–Fri 10:00–18:00

How to get there:

Tube: Green Park

Entry fee:

Free

Behind an impressive rank of Corinthian columns, modelled on the Temple of Antoninus in Rome, is the Royal Institution of Great Britain, founded in 1799 to promote ‘the application of Science to the common Purposes of Life’. In the basement, in the area occupied until 1872 by his laboratory, is a small museum devoted to the scientific discoveries of Michael Faraday (1791–1867). Born the son of a blacksmith, and initially apprenticed as bookbinder, Faraday discovered electro-magnetic rotation (the principle behind the electric motor) and—even more importantly for 19th-century industry—electro-magnetic induction (the principle behind transformers and generators), as well as benzene, the magneto-optical effect, diamagnetism and field theory. He himself was discovered by Humphry Davy, the second professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution. In 1812, at the age of 21, inspired by Davy’s final four lectures, Faraday had presented his notes to the great man in application for an interview. It was granted, but no position was available. The following year, a fight between the Instrument Maker and Chemical Assistant resulted in the latter’s dismissal, giving Davy the opportunity to appoint Faraday as his assistant. From October that year until April 1815, he accompanied Davy and his new wife Jane on a scientific tour of the continent. They travelled on a passport from Napoleon allowing the couple a maid and also a valet, a job description that caused Faraday some distress but gave him the opportunity to witness scientific research in Paris, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. Back in London, he helped Davy develop his celebrated miner’s safety lamp. In 1821, he published his first piece of original research, on electro-magnetic rotation, followed ten years later by his discovery of induction. The site of his original laboratory was restored in 1973, guided by eight watercolours painted by Harriet Jane Moore during the 1850s: the result is an ordered chaos of cabinets, bottles, bell jars, table stands, and a hand-operated vacuum pump. In the adjoining exhibition area are shown further pieces of his equipment, including the Great Cylinder Machine built in 1803, which he used to observe the nature of electrical discharge, a stool insulated with glass legs, the voltaic pile (prototype of the battery) given to him by Alessandro Volta, the original discoverer of electro-magnetism in 1800, and an electric egg that Faraday used to demonstrate electrical discharge in gases. Variations under different pressures allowed Faraday to identify the ‘dark discharge’ near the cathode now known as the Faraday Dark Space.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

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