Faraday as a Discoverer HTML version

Chapter 16
Illustrations of Character.
Thus far I have confined myself to topics mainly interesting to the man of science,
endeavouring, however, to treat them in a manner unrepellent to the general reader who
might wish to obtain a notion of Faraday as a worker. On others will fall the duty of
presenting to the world a picture of the man. But I know you will permit me to add to the
foregoing analysis a few personal reminiscences and remarks, tending to connect Faraday
with a wider world than that of science--namely, with the general human heart.
One word in reference to his married life, in addition to what has been already said, may
find a place here. As in the former case, Faraday shall be his own spokesman. The
following paragraph, though written in the third person, is from his hand:--'On June 12,
1821, he married, an event which more than any other contributed to his earthly
happiness and healthful state of mind. The union has continued for twenty-eight years
and has in no wise changed, except in the depth and strength of its character.'
Faraday's immediate forefathers lived in a little place called Clapham Wood Hall, in
Yorkshire. Here dwelt Robert Faraday and Elizabeth his wife, who had ten children, one
of them, James Faraday, born in 1761, being father to the philosopher. A family tradition
exists that the Faradays came originally from Ireland. Faraday himself has more than
once expressed to me his belief that his blood was in part Celtic, but how much of it was
so, or when the infusion took place, he was unable to say. He could imitate the Irish
brogue, and his wonderful vivacity may have been in part due to his extraction. But there
were other qualities which we should hardly think of deriving from Ireland. The most
prominent of these was his sense of order, which ran like a luminous beam through all the
transactions of his life. The most entangled and complicated matters fell into harmony in
his hands. His mode of keeping accounts excited the admiration of the managing board of
this Institution. And his science was similarly ordered. In his Experimental Researches,
he numbered every paragraph, and welded their various parts together by incessant
reference. His private notes of the Experimental Researches, which are happily preserved,
are similarly numbered: their last paragraph bears the figure 16,041. His working
qualities, moreover, showed the tenacity of the Teuton. His nature was impulsive, but
there was a force behind the impulse which did not permit it to retreat. If in his warm
moments he formed a resolution, in his cool ones he made that resolution good. Thus his
fire was that of a solid combustible, not that of a gas, which blazes suddenly, and dies as
suddenly away.
And here I must claim your tolerance for the limits by which I am confined. No materials
for a life of Faraday are in my hands, and what I have now to say has arisen almost
wholly out of our close personal relationship.
Letters of his, covering a period of sixteen years, are before me, each one of which
contains some characteristic utterance;--strong, yet delicate in counsel, joyful in