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Free Science Studies: Michael Faraday & Electricity

Free Science Studies: Michael Faraday & Electricity

Michael Faraday was a renown British scientist best known for his developments in electromagnetic theory, which led to the development of the electric engine and locomotive.

Read the following:

“Invention of the Electric Engine and Electric Locomotive”

  • Map the following (you’ll find mapping resources below):
  • What are the two parts of an electric engine as described in the book and what are their functions?
  • “Dynamo” comes from the Greek word dynamis. Find out what dynamis means exactly. Today the dynamo is typically referred to as an electric generator.
  • Learn how an electric motor works at Georgia State University.
  • Learn more about static electricity — the type of electricity described at the bottom of pg. 72 — at
  • View an illustration of Guericke’s sulphur globe.
  • Make a Van de Graaff generator (if you’re handy — or brave — or both!).
  • Learn more about Alessandro Volta at
  • Take a look at a replica of the Volta battery.
  • Make your own battery. You’ll find resources below.
  • Learn more about magnetic field lines at
  • Find out more about loadstones at The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
  • Learn more about the history of magnets, including the superstitions that once were associated with them at
  • Take a side trip and investigate the compass.
  • Find out what role a magnet plays in the the telephone at
  • Learn more about Hans Christian Ørsted (Oersted) at The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
  • Explain the connection between magnetism and electricity.
  • View an illustration of Sturgeon’s first electromagnet.
  • Make an electromagnet. You’ll find resources below.
  • Learn more about how an electric bell works at the BBC.
  • Learn more about Joseph Henry including his electric bell at
  • Use this interactive The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory to help understand how the number of coils increases electromagnetic induction or the strength of the electromagnet.
  • Learn more about Michael Faraday.
  • Explain the important principle Faraday learned from his experiments. (Electric current is produced by a magnet in motion.)
  • State Faraday’s law and explain its meaning (help at
  • View the Faraday disc generator.
  • Explain how a dynamo works (see pg. 81).
  • Describe how the practical motor was discovered.
  • View a photo and read about Siemen’s first electric tram.
  • Read about the inauguration of Siemen’s first electric streetcar.
  • Learn more about Edison’s electric locomotive at The
  • Make a list of the different ways motors are used.
  • Create a timeline showing the advances in the use of electricity.
  • More about Michael Faraday and electricity from the Book of Knowledge:

    Volta’s method of producing electrical currents was destined to make tremendous changes in the world’s work. The story of how this came about begins with the birth of Michael Faraday in England in 1791. Michael’s father, a blacksmith, was unable to provide for his family, and at the age of thirteen Michael began working for a bookbinder. Soon he found the contents of the books interesting, as well. He was especially interested in books dealing with science.

    A customer at the bookbindery noticed Michael’s interest in science and invited him to attend a series of lectures by Sir Humphry Davy. To Faraday’s great delight, he soon secured the job of laboratory assistant (actually bottle-washer and clean-up boy) for Sir Humphry. His willingness and his ability impressed Sir Humphry, and Faraday was soon invited to become Davy’s special assistant…. Under Davy’s wing, he met men like Ampere, Volta and Guy-Lussac….

    Meanwhile, Faraday read about the work of Oersted, Ampere and others, and set out to make a study of electricity. It occurred to him that if Oerstead and Ampere were able to get magnetism by means of electricity, it might be possible to get electricity by means of magnetism.

    He wound two separate coils (insulated from each other) on the same spool. Coil No. 1 was connected to a battery; coil No. 2 to a galvanometer (an instrument which measures current). Faraday expected to find current flowing in the second coil even though it was not attached to the batteries. But the galvanometer needle showed no current.

    He added more batteries to the circuit of the first coil. Still no current flowed in the second coil. He repeated the experiment time and time again, and then he noticed that although no current flowed in coil No. 2 when current was flowing in coil No. 1, there was a spurt of current in coil No. 2 when the circuit in coil No. 1 was turned on, and again when it was turned off. In other words, an electric current was induced in coil No. 2 whenever circuit No. 1 was made or broken.

    This is the principle of electromagnetic induction. Faraday was right. Magnetism could give rise to electricity, and this discovery has eased the work of man beyond measure.

    “The Men Who Discovered Electricity,” The Book of Knowledge


Further Investigation

Van de Graaff Generator
An explanation of how one works at Georgia State University.

Make Your Own Battery
Activity at Scroll down to find instructions for building an electric motor.

More about loadstones from physicist Dr. David P. Stern.

Biography at the College of Engineering at Michigan State University.

Oersted and Ampere Link Electricity and Magnetism
Explanation along with instructions for repeating Oersted’s experiment from physicist Dr. David P. Stern

Joseph Henry
More about Joseph Henry along with a few of his scientific papers at the American Institute of Physics.

Electric Motor
Photos and information about Henry’s electric motor at Princeton University.

Development of the Electromagnet
See an interesting assortment of apparatus over time at

Michael Faraday
Biography at The Robinson Library.

Michael Faraday
More robust biography at the Chemical Heritage Foundation.


A Battery That Makes Cents
Experiment at that has students make a voltaic pile — a 24¢ battery!

Magnetic Field Interactive
See the field lines as you move a virtual magnet at

Michael Faraday
Portrait by Thomas Phillips at BBC.

Make an Electromagnet
Easy experiment at

The Strength of an Electromagnet
Find out what difference the number of turns makes by seeing how big of a load your electromagnet can pick up at

Electromagnetic Induction
Interactive at The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory that demonstrates Faraday’s experiment.

Faraday’s Law
Interactive at the University of Colorado-Boulder that demonstrates Faraday’s Law.

Faraday’s Experiment
Inducing current in a wire with a magnet in this experiment at

Use this interactive at to create a timeline showing the advances in electricity as mentioned above.

Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics {Review & Activities}

Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics by Charles Ludwig
Often-recommended biography and a good choice for younger students or as a family read aloud.

Michael Faraday: Man of Science by Walter Jerrold
Wonderful public domain biography.

Experimental Researches in Electricity, Vol. 1 by Michael Faraday
Public domain work for older students.

“Edison’s Electric Railway”
Chapter from Boys’ Life of Edison by William Meadowcroft.

Unit Studies & Lesson Plan

Static Electricity
Lesson plan from engineering students at UC Berkeley with several activities exploring static electricity.

Understanding Magnetism
Lesson plan at that explores magnetism with discussion questions, links, and other resources for learning more.

The Mysteries of Magnetism
Video lessons for younger students at MIT.

Introduction to the Mystery of Magnetism
Great interactive lessons at the NDT Resource Center begin with understanding magnetic behavior and continue through electromagnets and the electric motor. Wonderful complement to the book. Highly recommended.

Electricity Merit Badge Workbook
Free 9-page download from the Boy Scouts that includes electromagnets.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Map of Europe
At for locating England.

United Kingdom
Map at PAT for locating Newington Butts.

Michael Faraday & Electricity Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

Enjoy the entire series:
Free Science Studies: Great Inventors & Their Inventions
Free Science Studies: Great Inventors & Their Inventions

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