Tag Archives: Faraday’s Dream

Is it too much to ask that the POTUS possess none of the disturbing character traits exhibited in these Michael Kitchen portrayals…

and more of the qualities found in Michael Faraday and Christopher Foyle?

Celebrating this Earth Day and the March for Science with Faraday’s Dream (YouTube link via the FWAS), a short drama documentary in which a dreamy Michael Kitchen portrays the brilliant English scientist, Michael Faraday. Released in 1991 in honor of the 200th anniversary of Faraday’s birth (also the year his image was placed on the £20 note that remained in circulation until 2001), the film won the top four awards at the International Science Film Festival.

Were he alive today, the civic-minded Faraday would no doubt be appalled by the Trump administration’s reliance on “alternative facts” and its concerted attack on science and the environment. Alan Hirshfeld, the author of The Electric Life of Michael Faraday, writes in the book’s preface that Faraday was a powerful advocate for “science education and environmental responsibilty,” using his prestige to denounce “the public’s propensity toward superstition and pseudoscience” and to campaign for urban pollution mitigation.

In showcasing the great Victorian scientist’s charisma, good humor, and relentless enthusiasm for scientific exploration and education, Michael Kitchen makes the perfect on-screen Faraday.

Faraday and his wife sadly could not have children of their own, but unlike the fictional childless marriages depicted in several of Michael Kitchen’s other films, the Faradays remained devoted to each other and made the best of their situation by often hosting their nieces and nephews. What fun to see Michael Kitchen playing a man with such an affinity for kids.

Sarah Faraday was played by Ann Penfold, who was Anne opposite MK’s Branwell. Same time period depicted, but thank goodness the long, bushy sideburns fashionable then were toned down for Michael Kitchen’s Faraday.

Faraday’s nieces were lucky to live with an uncle who
valued their education, rare for girls at that time. Here Michael Kitchen endearingly captures the delight Faraday takes in demonstrating to his young, in-house audience
the generation of electricity from a battery.

And later he unveils to them his groundbreaking electric motor based on electromagnetic rotation:

The open dish of mercury, though. Yikes. Faraday’s regular exposure to mercury while conducting experiments could be why he suffered from headaches and memory loss later in life.

Remember the glass rod and the feather? A magnet is much heavier than a feather, isn’t it?

Faraday understandably rushes to publish his exciting findings on electromagnetic rotation, with the unfortunate result of ruffling the feathers of some of his colleagues, including his mentor Humphry Davy.

Ten years later in 1831, Faraday achieves another momentous breakthrough, the discovery of magnetic induction.

One doesn’t usually think of scientists as devout Christians, but Faraday certainly fell into the category as does the evangelical climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe, whom I came across in this New Yorker podcast. At the end of the compelling piece when asked how successful she’s been in converting evangelicals skeptical of climate change, Hayhoe responds that “for every one letter or comment or email I get saying, ‘Well, you’re not a real scientist because you’re a Christian,’ I get about a hundred saying, ‘Well, you’re not a real Christian because you’re a scientist.'” I’d like to see them try telling Michael Faraday that science and religion are mutually exclusive. Such abhorrent close-mindedness and antagonism toward scientists make the promotion and popularization of science all the more important.

I’m going to assume this is what Michael Kitchen’s handwriting looks like when he uses a dip pen.

Thinking, thinking, thinking, eureka!

Alternating current!

Now known as the Faraday effect.