Faraday's diary of experimental investigation

Faraday’s diary of experimental investigation

Thomas Martin (ed) 

Riverton, US: HR Direct 2008 | 3872pp | ?21.95 for each of seven volumes (SB) ISBN 9780981908304 (set) 

Reviewed by Tony Stubbings 

This seven-volume set of Michael Faraday’s experimental notebooks (known as  Faraday’s diary  ) is a digitally enhanced reprint of the original 1936 printing, published through an exclusive arrangement with the Royal Institution (RI), to whom the diary was bequeathed in 1855. 


The diary, edited by Thomas Martin of the RI, records the experimental work of Faraday during the period 1820-1862, illustrated by his own diagram sketches and doodles. In comparison with the laboratory notebooks kept by most scientists today, it gives a detailed insight into the thinking behind each experiment and observation.  

There are entries covering the wide variety of topics on which Faraday worked, for example electromagnetic induction; liquefaction of gases; benzene; electrochemical equivalents; specific inductive capacity; magnecrystallic force; light; gold films; and electrostatics. 

Not for the faint-hearted, this 3872-page diary will be somewhat expensive except for the most ardent Faraday fans, but it will be a useful addition to any science library, as Faraday was without doubt one of the most eminent scientists of the 19th century, and this diary, with its level of detail, gives a window into the workings of the mind of a Victorian scientist. 

Since no one would have the stamina to read all the books from cover to cover, one thing that is of major importance to such a work is the quality of its index. In this case the excellent indexing to numbered entries (repeated at the back of each volume) allows the reader to find Faraday’s work and views on any topic, and the cross-referencing facilitates exploration of a topic through a series of entries. 

Perhaps this diary should be put on the web as a daily blog as has been recently done with Pepys’ diary. A diary piece could be provided daily, perhaps with a sidebar describing the weather and other national or international events that occurred on that day. Like the Pepys diary, readers of the blog could post their own annotations to provide valuable comments and explanations. 

The only way to purchase a complete set of Faraday’s diary is at www.faradaysdiary.com. Individual volumes can be bought elsewhere.