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A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution

James Hamilton.
Publisher Random House  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
ISBN 9781400060160
Pages/Publication Date 465/2002
Daedalus Item Code 53365
This item is not available.
Born at the turn of the 19th century, at the end of both the scientific revolution and the Enlightenment, Michael Faraday was the son of a blacksmith and had a slim education, yet he was gifted with a rare intelligence and intuition. He was a devout Christian who took the Bible literally, yet he was open to all that humankind could invent from earthly knowledge. He was ambitious and savvy about spreading news of his work, yet he patented nothing and received no personal gain. In short, Faraday personified all the paradoxes of the era, a landscape in which class, faith, and desire clashed. This outstanding biography illuminates the life of this reclusive, deeply contradictory man who had a profound effect on our modern era.

"When his experiments went explosively awry, Michael Faraday repeatedly found his eyes filled with glass and his own blood. But a perceptive biographer allows readers to see much more than shattered laboratory equipment through eyes eventually famous for penetrating the mysteries of electricity. Indeed, [James] Hamilton invites readers to see those contours of Faraday's life often neglected by biographers narrowly focused on his electrical research. We see, for instance, how, when shielded from public scrutiny, the mature genius but still straitlaced man allowed himself remarkable intimacy in correspondence with a free-spirited female mathematician. Even in turning to Faraday's acclaimed science, Hamilton highlights the nonscientific, exploring the piquant personalities of the mentors and collaborators who helped Faraday on his way and tracing the remarkably artistic metaphors Faraday employed in explaining his breakthroughs. And alongside a lucid scientific account of how Faraday's daring mind united wires and magnets in the world's first generator, Hamilton offers an acute psychological analysis of the peculiar fissures dividing that mind. Readers thus join Hamilton in pondering the curious schizophrenia that allowed Faraday to crusade for educational reform with poise but still left him insecure and self-abasing when addressing his own Protestant community on religious issues. A complete portrait, restoring full humanity to a scientific icon."Booklist (starred review)

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