Faraday’s transformer acted as a knowledge bridge to future innovators that electricity could be transformed. It wasn’t especially useful on its own except to signal to future scientists what is possible. His transformer was vital to the creation of the modern electricity grid and electrical innovations.
The device itself is hand-built by winding strings and metal. Scientists estimate it likely took at least ten days of tedious labor to complete.
When Faraday passed an electrical coil through one coil he detected one in another coil, proving the link between magnetism and electricity. Faraday’s Law of Induction is a cornerstone of electrical engineering.
Specifically, Faraday’s Law states: “The electromotive force around a closed path is equal to the negative of the time rate of change of the magnetic flux enclosed by the path.”
While Faraday’s original transformer was a hand-built one-off ring, today transformers are everywhere. They are a vital component of modern infrastructure. Enormous transformer stations power factories and blocks of residential houses. Tiny transformers are found in everyday electronics. Assuming you’re reading this article on a device, it is powered by some type of transformer that derives directly from Faraday’s.
Faraday was born into a life of poverty. His father was a blacksmith and his mother a servant. He attended a local school until age 13 when he left to take a job as a bookbinder. Rather than just bind the books he bought them home and read them. Eventually, he went to open science lectures paying one shilling per lecture, given to him by his older brother.
He eventually earned a job at the Royal Institution as a scribe to Sir Humphrey Davy, who went on to mentor him. Faraday remained at the Royal Institution for 54 years.
Historians regard Faraday as one of the greatest innovators in history; he all but invented how to generate, harness, and use post-Voltaic-pile electricity. Einstein kept a photo of him on his wall.
Faraday declined a knighthood and refused burial in Westminster Abbey. He died wealthy from grants and University positions but did not commercialize his work (Edison, Tesla, and the rest would do that).
Faraday’s original transformer remains in the Faraday Museum in London, part of the Royal Institution.