Faraday as a Discoverer HTML version

Chapter 15
When from an Alpine height the eye of the climber ranges over the mountains, he finds
that for the most part they resolve themselves into distinct groups, each consisting of a
dominant mass surrounded by peaks of lesser elevation. The power which lifted the
mightier eminences, in nearly all cases lifted others to an almost equal height. And so it is
with the discoveries of Faraday. As a general rule, the dominant result does not stand
alone, but forms the culminating point of a vast and varied mass of inquiry. In this way,
round about his great discovery of Magneto-electric Induction, other weighty labours
group themselves. His investigations on the Extra Current; on the Polar and other
Condition of Diamagnetic Bodies; on Lines of Magnetic Force, their definite character
and distribution; on the employment of the Induced Magneto-electric Current as a
measure and test of Magnetic Action; on the Revulsive Phenomena of the magnetic field,
are all, notwithstanding the diversity of title, researches in the domain of Magneto-
electric Induction.
Faraday's second group of researches and discoveries embrace the chemical phenomena
of the current. The dominant result here is the great law of definite Electro-chemical
Decomposition, around which are massed various researches on Electro-chemical
Conduction and on Electrolysis both with the Machine and with the Pile. To this group
also belongs his analysis of the Contact Theory, his inquiries as to the Source of Voltaic
Electricity, and his final development of the Chemical Theory of the pile. His third great
discovery is the Magnetization of Light, which I should liken to the Weisshorn among
mountains--high, beautiful, and alone. The dominant result of his fourth group of
researches is the discovery of Diamagnetism, announced in his memoir as the Magnetic
Condition of all Matter, round which are grouped his inquiries on the Magnetism of
Flame and Gases; on Magne-crystallic action, and on Atmospheric Magnetism, in its
relations to the annual and diurnal variation of the needle, the full significance of which is
still to be shown.
These are Faraday's most massive discoveries, and upon them his fame must mainly rest.
But even without them, sufficient would remain to secure for him a high and lasting
scientific reputation. We should still have his researches on the Liquefaction of Gases; on
Frictional Electricity; on the Electricity of the Gymnotus; on the source of Power in the
Hydro-electric machine, the last two investigations being untouched in the foregoing
memoir; on Electro-magnetic Rotations; on Regelation; all his more purely Chemical
Researches, including his discovery of Benzol. Besides these he published a multitude of
minor papers, most of which, in some way or other, illustrate his genius. I have made no
allusion to his power and sweetness as a lecturer. Taking him for all in all, I think it will
be conceded that Michael Faraday was the greatest experimental philosopher the world
has ever seen; and I will add the opinion, that the progress of future research will tend,
not to dim or to diminish, but to enhance and glorify the labours of this mighty