Michael Faraday's social origins, his thought processes, his methods of experimentation, and his religion have all been subjects of exhaustive analysis by historians and philosophers of science. One aspect of his work, which provides unique insight into his career path and the way in which his mind worked, has not received much emphasis outside the realm of academic professionals: namely, his writing. The Philosopher's Tree: Michael Faraday's Life and Work in His Own Words is an illustrated anthology of Faraday's writings compiled with commentary by Professor Peter Day, the director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain.
From when he was a teenage apprentice bookbinder until his final resignation from the Royal Institution due to failing memory, Faraday wrote voluminously and his output took many forms. Apart from letters, Faraday kept journals (both scientific and personal); as a practicing scientist, he wrote articles in learned journals; as an adviser to the government and to many other agencies, he wrote reports; and as a supremely successful communicator (especially to young people), he left lecture notes and transcripts. All of these writings add life, color, and depth of focus to the stereotypical scientific colossus. Although Faraday's life was largely lived within what might appear to be very narrow geographical confines (just a few miles around 21 Albemarle Street in London's West End), his professional, social, and family relationships were extensive and diverse, and his responses to them equally complex. Through all the forms of expression that his multifaceted career required of him, one fact shines clearly: not only is Faraday one of the world greatest scientists, he showed enviable quality as a writer.
"There is a brief and useful biography and an index, and the book is nicely illustrated with a mix of sketches from the diaries, contemporary images of Faraday's lab, and a few scientific diagrams … Peter Day has done Faraday's memory a fine service in bringing his words, thoughts, and feelings to a wide audience."
-Ryan D. Tweney, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, USA
"The Philosopher's Tree … is unique. It uses Faraday's own words about his life and career. And what words!"
"… a charming and moving insight into the mind of the great man. His commitment to his work, his modesty, and his delight in a life of science shine through. Peter Day has provided an excellent and unobtrusive commentary that links these letters and other items together. The result is compelling and I could hardly put the book down."
-Education in Chemistry
"Many authors have written of Faraday's work and admired them from a respectful distance. Peter Day has done something unique and brought us as close as we can get."
-Chemistry & Industry
"The author of this very readable and informative compilation is Faraday's successor as the Fullerian Professor of Chemistry in the Royal Institution. In this excellent book, Professor Day has gracefully effaced himself before his illustrious predecessor, letting him speak to us 'in his own words.' By all means read this book …"
-Jean-Paul Poirier, Institut de Physique du Globe, Paris, France
Introduction. A note about sources. A note about punctuation. The beginning - in a nutshell. Early years: friends, family and marriage. Touring the continent: 1813-1815. Way of life and work. Colleagues and friends. Words for things. Science at the bench. Leaves from a laboratory notebook. Science in the lecture theatre. Science for young people. Honour and recognition. Public affairs: consultant and advocate. Final days. Bibliography. Index.