Apprenticed to a bookbinder at the age of 14, he had little formal education, but acquired a store of scientific knowledge through reading and by attending lectures by Sir Humphry Davy. In 1813 he became assistant to Davy at the Royal Institution in London. He was made a member of the institution in 1823 and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1824. In 1825 he became director of the laboratory, and from 1833 he was Fullerian professor of chemistry at the Royal Institution. He declined knighthood and the presidency of the Royal Society. His experiments yielded some of the most significant principles and inventions in scientific history. He developed the first dynamo (in the form of a copper disk rotated between the poles of a permanent magnet), the precursor of modern dynamos and generators. From his discovery of electromagnetic induction (1831) stemmed a vast development of electrical machinery for industry. In 1825, Faraday discovered the compound benzene. In addition to other contributions he did research on electrolysis, formulating Faraday's law. He laid the foundations of the classical field theory, later fully developed by J. C. Maxwell. Some of his works were collected as Experimental Researches in Electricity (3 vol., 1839-55) and Experimental Researches in Chemistry and Physics (1859).
See his diary (ed. by Thomas Martin, 7 vol., 1932-36); his correspondence (ed. by L. P. Williams, 2 vol., 1971); biographies by Thomas Martin (1934) and L. P. Williams (1965); study by David Gooding and Frank A. James, ed. (1986).