|Transcribed by:||With the Permission of:|
|Rita F. Biederstedt and Derek A. Davenport||Professor Peter Day|
|Department of Chemistry||The Director|
|Purdue University||The Royal Institution of Great Britain|
|1393 BRWN Building||21 Albemarle Street|
|West Lafayette, IN 47907-1393||London W1X 4BS|
It has occurred to me that it would be extremely beneficial to a large class of the public to have some account of your late lectures on the breakfast-table, and of those you addressed, last year, to children. I should be exceedingly glad to have some papers in reference to them, published in my new enterprise Household Words. May I ask you whether it would be agreeable, to you, and, if so, whether you would favour me with the loan of your notes of those lectures for perusal?
-- Charles Dickens to Michael Faraday (May 1850)
Michael Faraday's lecture notes for his first series of Christmas Lectures `adapted to a juvenile audience' constitute pages 165 through 205 (page 172 is blank) of one of several similarly bound collections in the Archives of The Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. The earlier pages of this particular volume are devoted to Faraday's lecture notes for a course on `Chemical Manipulation' that he taught jointly with Professor Brande. They were later to serve as the basis for Faraday's only original book, Chemical Manipulation, first published in 1827. The notes were written on separate sheets of paper (many of them water-marked `Whatman') which were later bound and numbered by the former bookbinder's apprentice.
These notes were written solely for the benefit of the lecturer. They are terse, telegraphic, tantalizing, at times almost runic. Abbreviations abound and if indeed `a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds' then we have here further proof of Faraday's Olympian talents. Thomas Martin, who in the early 1930's lovingly transcribed Faraday's laboratory notebooks, gives the following list of abbreviations at the beginning of Volume I of Faraday's Diary, 1820-1862:
Some abbreviations used by Faraday -
bar. or B., baryta or barytic; also barometer nit. or N., nitrate or nitric. C.A., carbonic acid. oleft., olefiant. c:i:, cubic inches. S.A., sulphuric acid. cor. sub., corrosive sublimate. sul., sulphate or sulphuric. M.A., muriatic acid. sul. cy., sulphocyanate or sulphocyanic. mur. or M., muriate or muriatic. sul. hy., sulphuretted hydrogen. N.A., nitric acid. suls., sulphurous. N.M., nitro-muriatic. sulet. or sulrt., sulphuret.
But there are many variations on these and countless others besides.
Fortunately Faraday wrote a legible hand and most of the time it is clear what he wrote, if not always what he meant. Where ambiguous or dubious readings exist these have been enclosed in square brackets, e.g. [illegible]. On a number of occasions Faraday added words or phrases (usually in pencil) to his original notes. These also have been enclosed in square brackets followed by [added later?]. Almost all of the (Exp.)'s or demonstrations have a large clumsy cross pencilled alongside. These have been omitted. Faraday frequently reused old notes and perhaps these check-marks were a reminder of those demonstrations he had performed this time around.
When it comes to capitalization and punctuation, near total anarchy exists. The situation is described well by L. Pearce Williams in his introduction to Volume I of The Selected Correspondence of Michael Faraday:
Every effort has been made to transcribe the letters to and from Faraday exactly as they were written.... Idiosyncrasies of spelling or usage have been retained; only where there is the possibility of confusion have notes been added or editorial emendations made. These latter are included within square brackets. The one insoluble problem was Faraday's punctuation. Faraday followed no system whatsoever. In many letters, he omits all use of a final period in all sentences; in others, he mingles periods with dashes; in others, periods appear in the most unlikely places. The confusion is compounded by the fact that Faraday does not always begin new sentences with a capital letter. I have tried to apply common sense here; where the absence of punctuation merely causes temporary inconvenience, I have left the letters as Faraday wrote them. If what seemed to me to be the sense of a passage was rendered obscure, I have provided the minimum of punctuation. But periods are not all. There are many cases where it is impossible to tell if a mark is a comma, or just some spray from Faraday's pen; or whether a mark is a semicolon or a colon or a double splash. Reason is no guide, so, once again, I have tried to follow Faraday until the result was obscure. Then, I have come down on the side of clarity and eliminated what may, or may not, have been punctuation marks.
In our transcription we have attempted to retrace Faraday's antic path but the occasional orthodoxy may have crept in.
Lastly we have tried to preserve as closely as possible the way Faraday `layed-out' his thoughts on the page - spacings, indents, underlinings, etc. Such things reflect the rhythm and flow of the intended lecture with its sectioning of topics, its principal lessons, and even the passage at the end that can be jettisoned if time runs out. Certainly Faraday's lecture notes are astonishingly similar in format, if not in content, to the ones found today. If only our lectures could compare to his.
In many ways Michael Faraday was the ultimate academic pack-rat. Virtually all of his lecture notes from 1817 to 1861 seem to have survived. His first few lectures were written out in full but he quickly fell into the detailed-outline form that we see in these 1827 Christmas Lectures. Still later, as in his magisterial lecture on the paramagnetism of gaseous oxygen, his notes were reduced to a single large sheet of paper with demonstrations listed on the left and principal points-to-be-made on the right. Towards the end of his life Faraday reluctantly agreed to having a stenographic record made of his most famous Christmas series, The Chemical History of a Candle. Ten years earlier, when the same series was offered, Charles Dickens had written in a second letter to Faraday:
I think I may be able to do something with the candle; but I would not touch it, or have it touched, unless it can be relighted with something of the beautiful simplicity and clearness of which I see the traces in your notes.
The result was not encouraging. On this later occasion Faraday, true to his belief that lectures were one thing and books another, refused to check the transcript but he did agree to lend his notes to William Crookes who had been in the audience and who undertook to edit the stenographic record. The resulting book is as close as we can ever come to `hearing' what it was that made Faraday as legendary as a lecturer as he proved immortal as a natural philosopher. It is significant that in Faraday's guest appearance on the new British £20 note (he replaces Shakespeare as Elizabeth II's companion) he is shown not downstairs in his basement research laboratory but upstairs lecturing in the famous cockpit/theatre of the Royal Institution. Faraday's well-known advice to the young William Crookes "Work. Finish. Publish." might well have been "Work. Finish. Publish. Popularise."
-- Derek A. Davenport