Michael Faraday and South Foreland Lighthouse

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Michael Faraday was one of the most influential scientists in the world. Born into a poor blacksmiths family and with no education, he would become one of the most respected inventors of the age.

Faraday's discoveries would harness the power of electricity and develop the first ever electric motors. His appointment as Scientific Advisor to Trinity House would transform its fleet of lighthouses into the most technologically advanced in the world.

The scientific revolution at Trinity House led to South Foreland being the first lighthouse ever to shine an electric light.

Blacksmith beginnings

Faraday was born into a poor London family in 1791. Unable to afford an education, he was self taught, reading countless volumes in the bookshop where he worked.

Fascinated by the work of the chemist Humphrey Davy, Faraday attended his lectures and wrote to him asking for employment.

Davy's eventual offer of a job at the Royal Institution allowed Faraday to mix with other leading scientists. And it was during his time here that he developed his own theories.

Accompanying Davy on his Grand Tour of Europe, Faraday visited the scientific elite of the day. It was soon after they returned that he published his own findings on electricity.

The publication of Faraday's work on electromagnetism would establish him as an outstanding thinker in his own right.

Electrifying discoveries

Faraday was interested in all aspects of science. He preserved artwork, identified new chemicals and even studied ecology and the environment.

However, it was for the development of electromagnetic formula and the discovery of an electric motor that he's most remembered for.

Faraday's law would evolve into scientific theory still studied today and his motor demonstrated the first-ever practical use for electricity.

Tutor at Trinity

The outstanding work of Faraday attracted the interest of Trinity House. It appointed him as scientific adviser in 1836.

Faraday had a laboratory constructed on the Trinity House Quay. Soon after, the only ever lighthouse built in London was constructed alongside it. This allowed him to test his equipment.

Faraday's work would improve optical lenses, electrical generators and ventilation chimneys within lighthouses.

Advisor and the arc

By the 1850s, the goal of an electric-powered lamp within a lighthouse had still not been realised. Although Faraday was by now an old man, he still supervised the proposals of other scientists.

Faraday was interested in the ideas of Fredrick Holmes, who suggested that a carbon arc lamp could be used in lighthouses.

After considerable testing by Faraday, Holmes was instructed to install his invention in the tower at South Foreland. In 1858 this became the first lighthouse in the world to shine with an electric lamp.