Faraday as a Discoverer HTML version

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 thus:--
published in octavo, up to 1832.
M. Faraday.'
'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
'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