Michael Faraday was born on September 22, 1791 in the town of Newington, England. His family was rather poor and his parents were self-educated. He dropped out of school at the age of thirteen and became an apprentice bookseller in 1805. He loved to read books on every subject and constantly took notes on history, art, and biology. He went on naturalist expeditions to the areas around his home to catalog the animals and plants that he found.
In 1812, he started to attend lectures given by Humphry Davy, a well known scientist at the time. The lectures took place at the Royal Institution of Great Britain and in 1813 he was hired by Davy as a bottle washer and experimental assistant. Faraday proved a quick learner in the art of chemistry, mixing explosive chemicals and performing experiments within a few months.
Faraday also began giving lectures at the institution and he became well known for the excitement he generated. He proved that water expands as it is frozen by putting water in iron containers to freeze and allowing them to explode in front of the audience. He also managed to get twenty gases into liquid form, which became the basis for modern refrigeration and cryogenics. In 1827, he was given the Chair of Chemistry at the Royal Institution, succeeding his mentor Davy. That year he also published a book on chemical manipulation, which helped establish him throughout the world.
Faraday soon began research in electricity, a phenomenon that was rapidly gaining interest. He showed that a magnetic field could induce a current in a coil of wire, which became the basis for the generation of electricity. His theory of electromagnetic induction eventually became "Faraday's Law", making him famous. He used his theory to construct one of the earliest electrical motors, which would prove to be one of the most important inventions in the field of electronics.
In 1845, Faraday discovered that magnetic fields could rotate the plane of polarized light. This concept became known as the Faraday Effect. The idea helped scientists discover molecular structures and obtain information about galactic magnetic fields.
Faraday also experimented with sending electrical currents through chemicals, discovering that molecules could separate into gases. This method of electrolysis proved useful for isolating highly reactive gases such as chlorine and fluorine from relatively harmless compounds.
By 1855, Faraday's mental abilities had begun to decline and he stopped his research, although he lectured until 1861. In 1867, Faraday died at home in his study. Albert Einstein later would say that "Faraday has made the greatest breakthrough in physics since Isaac Newton". Faraday is remembered today as one of the greatest experimental and theoretical scientists of all time.