This is the day that … Michael Faraday died in 1867.
The third son of a Yorkshire blacksmith, young Faraday grew up to know the meaning of the word ‘poverty’. But the family attended the nearby chapel and was rich in things spiritual.
His interest in electricity motivated him to write to Sir Humphrey Davy, asking if there was an opportunity to work as a laboratory assistant. Davy invited him for an interview and soon the young Faraday was on his way to becoming one of the great names in the world of science.
At the age of 30 he married Sarah Barnard – a happy union that continued until his death 47 years later. And that same year he became a church member. Peter Masters, of Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, tells us that although Faraday had attended that chapel since boyhood, “not until he was 30 … had he proved the reality of Christian experience” (Men of Purpose, page 14).
What Peter Masters omits to say is that it was a Sandemanian chapel … a curious movement in the 18th century that the pastor of Spurgeon’s Tabernacle (and many other evangelical Christians) would regard as heretical.
Faraday’s discoveries led to his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society. His experiments with electricity “changed the face of the world”.
Meanwhile he became an elder in the Sandemanian church and “an ardent preacher”.
Michael Faraday’s life “was devoted to Christian work and science”, and between them he perceived no incompatibility. He accepted the Bible as God’s Word without reservation.
Toward the end of his life Darwin published On the Origin of Species, giving vent to an anti-Christian sentiment that had been brewing for many years. Within 20 years science would be secularised. None of this impact the faith and firm resolve of this man of God.
Faraday stands as history’s foremost experimental scientist. Often working with nothing more than home-made apparatus, he produced so much practical scientific discovery that he is unmatched in his contribution to lifestyle and the general body of scientific knowledge in chemistry and physics. Yet he sought no monetary reward and preferred to be at church than at an awards ceremony.
This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.