Michael Faraday and the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures

Professor Faraday lecturing at the Royal Institution, December 27, 1855, from a painting by Alexander Blaikley, commemorating the Attendance of HRH the Prince of Wales and HRH Prince Alfred, at the Juvenile Course of Lectures, 1855–1856.

Tonight is Christmas Eve.

At this time of the year, I think of the great English physicist Michael Faraday giving the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Above is a famous illustration of Faraday delivering one of his talks.

Below is a photo of the statue of Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution in London.

Faraday was very closely associated with the Royal Institution. He was first appointed as laboratory assistant there in 1813, became director of the laboratory in 1825, and Fullerian Professor of Chemistry there from 1833 to 1867. It was there too that he conducted his electricity experiments; as superintendent of the institution, he also lived in a flat there with his wife Sarah, until the couple were given a house near Hampton Court in 1858. Photograph, caption, and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee

I’m fond of Michael Faraday because he discovered electromagnetic induction. Induction is the process that underlies transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain, a technique that I worked on in the 1990s at the National Institutes of Health. In Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology, Russ Hobbie and I write

I usually associate the Royal Institution with Victorian scientists like Michael Faraday, John Tyndall, and James Dewar. But the Royal Institution — nowadays referred to as the Ri — is alive and well! I love its vision:

The Ri continues to host the Christmas Lectures every year. This year, the lecture is — of course — about Covid-19. Its title is “ Going Viral: How Covid Changed Science Forever.” England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, will be joined by top UK scientists to examine the science of viruses. Typically these lectures contain many demonstrations and are especially aimed at a young audience, but I like them too. Eventually, the Ri will post these lectures online for all to see. I can’t wait.

I learned on the Ri website that 2021 is the 200th anniversary of Faraday’s invention of the electric motor.

The Royal Institution also has a lot of great videos. Here are some I enjoyed, which are related to Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.

Merry Christmas.

How do Medicine and Physics Overlap?
Celebrating Crystallography — An Animated Adventure
How Does Convection Work? — Christmas Lectures with George Porter
Michael Faraday’s Electric Frogs
Rutherford, Radioactivity and the Future of Physics — with the Cosmic Shambles Network

Originally published at http://hobbieroth.blogspot.com.



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Brad Roth

Brad Roth


Professor of Physics at Oakland University and coauthor of the textbook Intermediate Physics for Medicine and Biology.