If it wasn’t for Michael Faraday, who hailed from Newington Butts, we wouldn’t know about electromagnetic induction – and, therefore, we wouldn’t have everyday items such as cars, doorbells, computers and televisions.
Born in 1791, one of four children, Faraday developed a fascination with science from a young age.
At 14, he began an apprenticeship with a bookbinder and, for the next seven years, fed his scientific appetite – especially his interest in electricity – by reading widely.
In 1813, chemist Humphry Davy gave Faraday the job of chemical assistant at the Royal Institution of Britain, based in London. Over the following years, his tireless experiments led him to his greatest breakthroughs – the discovery of electro-magnetic induction, the principle behind the electric transformer and generator., and the Faraday Cage effect, which allows microwaves to work and protects planes from lightning strikes.
Faraday died in 1867. To celebrate the Londoner’s achievements, architect Rodney Gordon was commissioned in 1959 to create a sculpture. The Michael Faraday Memorial, which stands proud at Elephant Square in Elephant and Castle, was completed in 1961 (see top image). Furthermore, architects have designed a new building on New Kent Road referencing from this iconic monument (see bottom image).
A striking, shiny metal box, the structure is six metres tall – just a bit higher than the double-decker buses that pass by it – 23 metres wide, and covered in 728 stainless steel panels. In a fitting tribute to the eminent physicist and chemist, it houses a London Underground electricity substation for the Northern and Bakerloo lines of Elephant and Castle tube station.
The memorial was granted a Grade II listing in 1996.