How Self-Taught Scientist Michael Faraday Found His Education and Path Before Changing the World

English scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) is considered to be one of the most influential scientists of all time. Even the great Albert Einstein kept a picture of Faraday on his study wall, right beside his picture of Sir Isaac Newton. Faraday, unlike both Einstein and Newton, had little formal education. As teenagers, both Newton and Einstein had the benefit of attending some of the best schools, while Faraday worked as bookbinder apprentice in his teen years. This turned out to be a major turning point in Faraday’s self-taught education, during his seven years as an apprentice he was surrounded by books and took advantage of this by reading anything that interested him.

At the age of 20 Faraday’s apprenticeship was over, and he was ready to make the transition from tradesman to scientist. Faraday started attending lectures by the renowned chemist Humphry Davy; he then compiled a book of notes from the lectures and sent them to Davy. Davy was immediately impressed by Faraday’s entries that he instantly hired him as an assistant. At this time, England was still very much a class-based society, which meant that Faraday was seen as servant and sometimes had to perform the duties of a valet.

As a scientist Faraday excelled in the fields of chemistry, electricity and magnetism. A small sampling of his discoveries include benzene, an early version of the Bunsen burner and the laws of electrolysis. He also found the cause of coal mine explosions, designed electric lighthouses and came up with rust protection for ship bottoms. Faraday also built an electric dynamo, which is the basis of the modern power generator and the electric motor.

Faraday was ahead of his time in other areas as well, such as environmental concerns. He was critical of the pollution problem in the River Thames; he investigated industrial pollution in Swansea and was consulted on air pollution.

Faraday remained a man of principal throughout his life as a scientist. He refused to help the British government to develop chemical weapons during the Crimean War. He was offered a Knighthood but declined the honorarium, saying that he just wanted to be “plain Mr. Faraday to the end”.

15 quotes from Michael Faraday that underlies his simple approach to success:


“The five essential entrepreneurial skills for success are concentration, discrimination, organization, innovation and communication.” – Michael Faraday


“Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature.” – Michael Faraday


“I am no poet, but if you think for yourselves, as I proceed, the facts will form a poem in your minds.” – Michael Faraday


“But still try, for who knows what is possible?” – Michael Faraday


“Lectures which really teach will never be popular; lectures which are popular will never really teach.” – Michael Faraday


“There’s nothing quite as frightening as someone who knows they are right.” – Michael Faraday


“I have far more confidence in the one man who works mentally and bodily at a matter than in the six who merely talk about it.” – Michael Faraday


“The secret of scientific success: Work, Finish, Publish.” – Michael Faraday


“The important thing is to know how to take all things quietly.” – Michael Faraday


“A man who is certain he is right is almost sure to be wrong.” – Michael Faraday


“It is right that we should stand by and act on our principles; but not right to hold them in obstinate blindness, or retain them when proved to be erroneous.” – Michael Faraday


“I can at any moment convert my time into money, but I do not require more of the latter than is sufficient for necessary purposes.” – Michael Faraday


“A centre of excellence is, by definition, a place where second class people may perform first class work.” – Michael Faraday


“There is no more open door by which you can enter into the study of natural philosophy than by considering the physical phenomena of a candle.” – Michael Faraday


“All are sure in their days except the most wise … He is the wisest philosopher who holds his theory with some doubt.” – Michael Faraday

Author: Phil Zavackis


Phil Zavackis is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He has recently finished a screenplay titled ‘105 Degrees & Rising’, which is about the Fall of Saigon in 1975.



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