Magnetization of light.

Magnetization of light.

But we must quit the man and go on to the discoverer: we shall return for a brief space to his company by-and-by. Carry your thoughts back to his last experiments, and see him endeavouring to prove that induction is due to the action of contiguous particles. He knew that polarized light was a most subtle and delicate investigator of molecular condition. He used it in 1834 in exploring his electrolytes, and he tried it in 1838 upon his dielectrics. At that time he coated two opposite faces of a glass cube with tinfoil, connected one coating with his powerful electric machine and the other with the earth, and examined by polarized light the condition of the glass when thus subjected to strong electric influence. He failed to obtain any effect; still he was persuaded an action existed, and required only suitable means to call it forth.

After his return from Switzerland he was beset by these thoughts; they were more inspired than logical: but he resorted to magnets and proved his inspiration true. His dislike of 'doubtful knowledge' and his efforts to liberate his mind from the thraldom of hypotheses have been already referred to. Still this rebel against theory was incessantly theorising himself. His principal researches are all connected by an undercurrent of speculation. Theoretic ideas were the very sap of his intellect--the source from which all his strength as an experimenter was derived. While once sauntering with him through the Crystal Palace, at Sydenham, I asked him what directed his attention to the magnetization of light. It was his theoretic notions. He had certain views regarding the unity and convertibility of natural forces; certain ideas regarding the vibrations of light and their relations to the lines of magnetic force; these views and ideas drove him to investigation. And so it must always be: the great experimentalist must ever be the habitual theorist, whether or not he gives to his theories formal enunciation.

Faraday, you have been informed, endeavoured to improve the manufacture of glass for optical purposes. But though he produced a heavy glass of great refractive power, its value to optics did not repay him for the pains and labour bestowed on it. Now, however, we reach a result established by means of this same heavy glass, which made ample amends for all.

In November, 1845, he announced his discovery of the 'Magnetization of Light and the Illumination of the Lines of Magnetic Force.' This title provoked comment at the time, and caused misapprehension. He therefore added an explanatory note; but the note left his meaning as entangled as before. In fact Faraday had notions regarding the magnetization of light which were peculiar to himself, and untranslatable into the scientific language of the time. Probably no other philosopher of his day would have employed the phrases just quoted as appropriate to the discovery announced in 1845. But Faraday was more than a philosopher; he was a prophet, and often wrought by an inspiration to be understood by sympathy alone. The prophetic element in his character occasionally coloured, and even injured, the utterance of the man of science; but subtracting that element, though you might have conferred on him intellectual symmetry, you would have destroyed his motive force.

But let us pass from the label of this casket to the jewel it contains. 'I have long,' he says, 'held an opinion, almost amounting to conviction, in common, I believe, with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest have one common origin; in other words, are so directly related and mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, into one another, and possess equivalents of power in their action.... This strong persuasion,' he adds, 'extended to the powers of light.' And then he examines the action of magnets upon light. From conversation with him and Anderson, I should infer that the labour preceding this discovery was very great. The world knows little of the toil of the discoverer. It sees the climber jubilant on the mountain top, but does not know the labour expended in reaching it. Probably hundreds of experiments had been made on transparent crystals before he thought of testing his heavy glass. Here is his own clear and simple description of the result of his first experiment with this substance:--'A piece of this glass, about two inches square, and 0·5 of an inch thick, having flat and polished edges, was placed as a diamagnetic1

between the poles (not as yet magnetized by the electric current), so that the polarized ray should pass through its length; the glass acted as air, water, or any other transparent substance would do; and if the eye-piece

  By PanEris using Melati.

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