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Michael Faraday: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Frank A.J.L James
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Nov 2010 Very Short Introductions (Book 253)
Michael Faraday is one of the best known scientific figures of all time. Known as the discoverer of electro-magnetic induction, the principle behind the electric generator and transformer, he has frequently been portrayed as the 'father' of electrical engineering from whence much of his popular fame derives. This Very Short Introduction dispels the myth that Faraday was an experimental genius working alone in his basement laboratory, making fundamental discoveries that were later applied by others. Instead, it portrays Faraday as a grand theorist of the physical world profoundly influencing later physicists such as Thomson (Kelvin), Maxwell, and Einstein. Frank A.J.L. James explores Faraday's life from his origins in eighteenth-century Westmorland and Yorkshire, his religious and scientific background, to the growth of his fame in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As well as introducing his scientific research, he also puts Faraday in the various institutional contexts in which he lived and worked, including the Royal Institution, the Royal Society, Trinity House, and other agencies of the state. James therefore provides a commentary on the rapidly changing place of science in nineteenth-century society, especially in regards to its role in government and the growth of a professional scientific community. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199574316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199574315
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 11.5 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars accessible to the layman 7 April 2011
By Stephen
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have commented elsewhere that the volumes in this series vary a good deal in their accessibility to the non-expert. This one is fine. The author is clearly the world authority on Faraday, and he does very well to distil so much erudition into this concise format.

I knew almost nothing about Faraday except that he had something to do with the development of electricity. What Professor James shows is that Faraday, like other great figures in science in that age, was no narrow specialist, but had all manner of practical and theoretical interests. All the time he was firmly grounded in a rather obscure religious community.

So very good. I hesitate to give it five stars, though, partly because of the unnecessary lashing out at Mrs Thatcher in the last chapter, which is a bit unworthy; but more importantly because, as a non-specialist, I would have valued the author's views on Faraday's true position in the history of science and engineeering. He is at some pains to tell us about Faraday's later reputation, but that is not quite the same thing. However, as an introduction to a major historical figure this little book is well done and can be recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin, but.......... 12 Nov 2012
I was disappointed with this book.

I wanted a quick sheep dip introduction to Faraday the man, his science, his experiments and contribution to theory, and an idea of his place in the history of science.

On close examination Mr James' title only claims to do the first..and he does it well, but just about completely fails on the remainder.

Perhaps I was expecting too much, but I'll admit to feeling just a little shortchanged by this volume. Surely there could be room for a few pages discussing the scientific stuff. James writes as if he would frighten people by any mention of technical details. But this is not the Ladybird Book of Victorian Scientists, it is an OUP text.

If you want to learn in rather more detail than I needed about all Faraday's projects who paid for them. who he associated with, who his ancestors were, the details of his particular church and all the other personal stuff then this is fine. But look elsewhere to understand his science.
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4.0 out of 5 stars First rate! 11 Aug 2013
By opus
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am not a scientist; indeed, heresy though it is these days to say so, I am not and never have been interested by science: it bores me. I am thus hardly the person to review this book, but it seems to me to be first rate.

We are told that Faraday's manuscripts are in no less than 250 archives around the world. This seems almost beyond belief. He is clearly the sort of person whose image should be on our Bank Notes - at least he has done something - many things - truly remarkable and from the most humble of beginnings.

It was therefore some surprise to me to learn as we do in the book of Margaret Thatcher's interest in him. She read Chemistry, gave it up for the soft option which is Law - I would have like to asked her, 'why exactly did you fall for the Millionaire Denis Thatcher?' - and borrows the Royal Institution's bust of Faraday for Number 10 as if it is some sort of go-faster stripe for Prime Ministers, (Major did well to return it) and yet at the same time she does nothing to restore the Grammar Schools and was apparently active in culling science at the Universities.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Introduction to One of the Greatest Experimentalists of All Time 18 Jan 2011
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Any student of Physics, and electromagnetism in particular, will be familiar with the name Faraday. There is "Faraday's law of induction" that relates creation of electric currents by changing magnetic field, "Faraday cage" is a room that shields from the static electric fields, and the unit of capacitance bears the name farad in Faraday's honor. Some of us may know that Faraday was a largely self-taught and brilliant experimentalist, but other than that even most Physicists know very few facts about his life. This very short introduction aims to fill in those gaps, and it presents some of the most important events in Faraday's life, as well as some of the more noteworthy developments in Faraday's posthumous fame.

The book primarily focuses on Faraday's scientific works and lectures, but there is a considerable amount of background biographical material as well. An interesting tidbit of information on Faraday is that his whole life he was a very active member of Sandemanians, a small Christian sect that flourished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. At this time people who were not officially affiliated with the Church of England were not able to take the full advantage of all social and political institutions, so we can infer that Faraday took his faith very seriously.

The image of Faraday that emerges from this book is that of perfect gentleman-scientists: someone who was primarily concerned with the advancement of human knowledge and was not driven by financial or commercial concerns. The book also emphasizes many achievements that Faraday had made in fields that are largely forgotten now. We also learn about several major mistakes that Faraday had made, and in my opinion this is one of the virtues of this short introduction. Too many history of science books present this history as one great success after another, while most of the dead ends are conveniently forgotten. The truth is quite different: even the greatest scientists often make errors of judgment or downright blunders, but this is exactly how the science works. Mistakes, even the big ones, are more often than not necessary for us to fully understand what the right kind of understanding ought to be.

This is a short yet highly informative introduction to Faraday and anyone who is interested in the history of science would appreciate reading it.
3.0 out of 5 stars the writing style is deficient 5 April 2014
By Hita1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book reads more like a chronological account of Faraday's professional life than a biography. The writing style is frankly prosaic and monotonous. The author describes Faraday's life like a train or bus schedule: on x date he was doing this, then one year later he was doing that and met with such.... making the subject rather blunt. The science content is also poor.
In short, the author treats the subject very dispassionately and makes the reader feel like a teacher grading a college paper instead of reading an introduction about the life and works of one of humanities most unappreciated scientist. Instead of a very short introduction (which is not) it should have been called : a chronological description of Faraday's life.
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