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THE DAWN OF THE ELECTRICAL AGE
MICHAEL FARADAY

Michael faradaY
FIRE FROM HEAVEN
ONE OF THE GREAT
EST STORIES

Michael Faraday (1791–1867) left school at the age of 12 with only the most basic education. In a world where science (or ‘Natural Philosophy’ as it was then called) was the preserve of the wealthy and privileged, there was little hope for a working class lad from the streets of London; and Faraday had another great disadvantage socially: his family were dissenters, members of an obscure Christian sect called ‘Sandemanians’ which, although orthodox in its beliefs, immediately excluded him from Oxford or Cambridge or any kind of university education. The Anglican establishment still ruled the day in law and government and in the social hierarchy.

 

There are many who believe that Faraday’s ability to ‘think outside the box’, the sheer originality of his mind, owed a great deal to the non-conformity of his religion and his experience of life on the margins, where he was forced to take his own initiative in everything. His first job was as a paper boy, working for Ribeau’s bookshop in Blandford Street but, before long, he was offered a place as an apprentice bookbinder. Surrounded by thousands of volumes, Faraday began to read voraciously. The entry on ‘Electricity’ in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica seized his imagination. His employer recognised the teenager’s potential and allowed Faraday to conduct his own experiments, with chemicals, in a backroom. In this way, Faraday began his humble career as an aspiring ‘natural philosopher.’ Ribeau soon realised that his industrious apprentice was a scientific prodigy and encouraged him to pursue his ambitions against all the odds.

 

Among the great scientific establishments of the day was ‘The Royal Society’, the elite society of natural philosophers (many of whom were wealthy and aristocratic) and ‘The Royal Institution’, which had been founded recently to advance scientific learning for the general population. The director of The Royal Institution (also a member of ‘The Royal Society’) was the illustrious Sir Humphry Davy, one of the world’s greatest chemists and a heroic figure to Michael Faraday. Faraday was thrilled to receive tickets from a wealthy customer of the bookshop to attend one of Davy’s unforgettable lectures…


And this is where the action of the play begins.

 

 


A STORY WITH UNIVERSAL APPEAL


Michael Faraday is one of the most brilliant, inspiring and loveable characters in human history. He is utterly fascinating to the dramatist and his story will surely appeal to any audience that enjoys a classic tale of achievement against impossible odds, a beautiful love story shining against a backdrop of suffering and bitter class prejudice, and a period drama set in one of the most enticing and colourful eras of the past: the age of the Romantic Poets...

 

On the grounds of pure excitement and entertainment, quite apart from the great themes of endurance, social injustice, science and faith, the story of Michael Faraday has everything to offer. There are many colourful threads weaving together in one extraordinary life. Perhaps the most exotic and appealing strand which runs throughout this drama is the parallel between the brilliant, romantic and mercurial Sir Humphry Davy, most eminent scientist of the day, and his humble scientific assistant, Faraday, who gradually begins to outstrip his master. Davy is a Byronic figure, handsome and eloquent, but a man who has made a disastrous marriage to the wealthy socialite Jane who bitterly resents the working-class Faraday and his growing influence. Meanwhile, Faraday finds deep love and inspiration in his marriage to the beautiful but humbly born Sarah. The two couples and their lives chart a journey that intertwines and then unravels in disaster – a rejection that nearly destroys Faraday and from which only Sarah can truly help him recover.

 

The birth of the ‘Electrical Age’ has as much to do with electricity between humans – positive and negative – as it does with experiments in the laboratory.

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