What is it about? : About the great scientist Micheal Faraday and his place in the evolution of electricity.
How I came to read it : I saw the book in our University Bookstore sale and promptly bought it as I am always on the lookout for science related books.
Did I like it? : Its an average read. As Chernobyl’s Dyatlov would say ‘Not great not terrible’.
Why/views/summary : The book starts off with describing Micheal Faraday’s early life when he was a kid working at a book shop. Malcolm Gladwell has a theory that to be successful you need to have the right kind of people in your life at the right time. In this Micheal Faraday was very lucky. In his first job at the Book shop he had a supportive boss who did not stop young Faraday when he did random experiments at the shop and read all the books and journals that came his way. He even let Faraday visit a number of lecture series that use to take place for the public. From this point the author moves on to describe the science scene of those times. This is perhaps the best part of the whole book.
In the 19th century era electricity was making inroads into the society. There were many inventors and scientists working on different aspects of electricity. So rapid was the pace that almost every week bought a new development. Also popular among the public at this time was the public lectures or shows that inventors and scientists put up. Every institution of repute used to run their own lectures and shows to showcase their achievements. And public attended these in droves. Faraday grew up in these times and attended a number of these in his young age. He would go on to become a great speaker/showman himself later in life. At some point Faraday decided that a life of working at the bookshop was not for him and he was looking at opportunities in science. His life changed when one of the regular customers at the book shop offered him tickets to Sir Humphrey Davy’s lectures. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity as Davy was a legend at that time. Faraday attended all the lectures and got in acquaintance with Davy and soon landed a job as his lab Assistant at the Royal Institution. This changed Faraday’s life completely. Davy tutored him in experimentation among many other things. The teacher student partnership did wonders for both of them initially till Davy’s death in 1829. When someone asked Davy what his greatest discovery was he replied in a flash ‘Micheal Faraday’.
The book then meanders off to again describe the various developments taking place in the field of electricity. It talks about other inventors like William Sturgeon, who made the first electromagnet. Then Faraday’s contributions including electromagnetic induction are described. The books mostly talks about the series of lectures he gave at the Royal Institution. He started a trend which continues to this day. Here is the link to the present day lecture series.
Here lies the main weak point of the book. At no point is the significance of Faraday stressed upon and nowhere is his legacy talked about. This aspect of the book could have been improved. Overall a casual read. Except for the part where those lectures are described the rest of the book is pretty average.
Other Related Reads-
1. Empires of Light by Jill Jones – Amazon Link