Michael Faraday collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Faraday to John Franklin regarding the British Naval Exploring Expedition, 1825-1827 (led by Franklin) sometimes called the Arctic Land Expedition.

Administrative / Biographical History

Michael Faraday was born on 22 September 1791 at Newington Butts. Having received little formal education, he was apprenticed to a bookbinder in 1804, becoming interested in science through reading scientific publications and attending lectures given by, amongst others, Sir Humphry Davy. In 1813, he was engaged as a chemical assistant at the Royal Institution in London. In 1815, Faraday resumed his post at the Royal Institution where he began to conduct numerous scientific experiments. He was promoted superintendent of the house in 1821, the year in which he discovered the principle of the electric motor, later publishing his work on electromagnetic rotations. In 1823, he liquefied chlorine, thus proving that a gas was transformable to a liquid state, and two years later isolated the compound benzene.

In 1830, Faraday was appointed professor of chemistry at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, a post he held until 1851. During the 1830s, Faraday conducted numerous experiments in electricity and electromagnetism, discovering the phenomenon of electromagnetic induction in 1831, and conducting research on electrolysis in 1833, thus formulating Faraday's Laws. In addition to other scientific contributions, he produced the first dynamo and discovered that a magnetic field can rotate the plane of polarized light, later known as the Faraday Effect. Between 1836 and 1865, Faraday acted as scientific adviser to Trinity House, an establishment responsible for safe navigation around the shores of England and Wales. After his health began to deteriorate in 1841, he conducted fewer experiments and devoted more of his time to lecturing. He died on 25 August 1867 at Hampton Court in London.


The correspondence with Franklin is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Dictionary of National Biography volume 18 Smith, Elder & Co. London (1889) and Encyclopaedia Britannica Micropaedia volume 4 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Chicago (1974) and Physicians & Scientists and BBC and The Royal Institute and Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland Garland Publishing, London (1994) ISBN number 0824076486 and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills San Diego and Oxford, 2003

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions