Archives research guide: Michael Faraday

An informative guide to the various historical sources available at the IET Archives for the study of the life and work of Michael Faraday. Original records include correspondence, diaries and notebooks.

Michael Faraday was born in Newington Butts, Surrey, on 22 September 1791. Famous for his discovery of electro-magnetic induction, Faraday was a self-taught man who progressed from being an apprentice bookbinder to Director of the Royal Institution where he conducted his research.
The Archives holds one of the most extensive collections of Faraday manuscript material, as well as a number of photographs.

Sources in the Archives:

All these collections can be searched on the Archives online catalogue. Try looking for some of the collections listed below or the 'Themed Search' or by using any of the keywords for a more varied search.

  • Faraday Michael
  • Royal Institution
  • Electromagnetism
  • Magnetism
  • Lectures
  • Davy Edward
  • Chemistry


David James Blaikley Collection of Michael Faraday Papers, 1809-1961 SC MSS 002
This collection consists of six manuscript volumes, approximately 750 autograph letters, two archive boxes of miscellaneous manuscripts. It also includes material based on original Faraday documents.

Four letters to Hawkins, 1836-1839 SC MSS 093
Four letters from Michael Faraday to Thomas Hawkins detailing experiments by  Mr Crosse in making crystals with electricity and Faraday's comments on Hawkin's results for an experiment using an iron plate in dilute nitrate acid to create a battery.

Warner Collection of Faraday - Abbott correspondence, 1812-1821 SC MSS 127
Correspondence between Michael Faraday and Benjamin Abbott.  Also includes some correspondence between Faraday and Robert Abbott, Benjamin Abbott's brother. Topics of discussion include Faraday's experiments, with details on his methods, results and subsequent alterations. There are also discussions on other contemporary experiments, particularly those of Davy's and even on the importance of choosing one's acquaintances carefully!

Maria Herries Collection of Michael Faraday material, 1835-1865 SC MSS 152
This collections comprises notebooks, one compiled by J Creed and one by Maria Herries, containing notes of Faraday's discourses and lectures; some correspondence with Faraday and some with Rev John Barlow regarding conditions in the Crimea; offprints and proofs of some of Faraday's discourses and lectures.

Miscellaneous papers connected with Michael Faraday, 1852-1873 SC MSS 022/1
This class consists of material collected by Sir William Preece. It includes copies of lectures and notes about Faraday, his work, his religious beliefs, his lecturing and studying technique and his role as a discoverer, with papers relating to other scientists repeating Faraday's experiments.

Silvanus Philips Thompson's Electricians' Album, 1875-1916 SC MSS 003/B/2
This album contains various photographs, letters and engravings relating to Michael Faraday as part of Thompson's album.

Mystery photograph, 4 February 1901 SC MSS 086/4
This photograph appears to be a 'spirit photograph' of a man in a chair contemplating a vase of flowers with a semi-transparent figure super-imposed.  Inscribed on back 'Faraday Taken 4 February 1901 by Mr R Boursnell'.

Papers of J N Aldington 1916-1978 SC MSS 135
Within this collection of papers and notes created during the life and career of J N Aldington there can be found in the 'Publications, Research, Lectures and Manuscripts' series ten glass slides of 'Early work on Wire covering' and 'Faraday's Work'.  

Other Resources on this website:

The Archives website also contains information on Faraday's skill at public speaking, his travels in Europe, his advice to artists and his studies in photography which can all be found in the Michael Faraday online exhibition alongside more biographical detail in the Michael Faraday biography.