Michael Faraday’s Beliefs on the Paranormal and Electromagnetism

V0026348 Michael Faraday. Photograph by Maull & Polyblank. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Michael Faraday. Photograph by Maull & Polyblank. Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Undeniably, Michael Faraday was one of the most influential scientists of his era. Specializing in the field of electrochemistry and electromagnetism, Faraday made numerous contributions to society through his discoveries. Were it not for Faraday, the laws of electrolysis would still be a mystery. Other than his scientific contributions, Michael Faraday held unique beliefs in the paranormal and its relationship to electromagnetism.

As a renowned scientist, Faraday was a strong believer that paranormal phenomena could not be caused by either magnetic or electrical forces. He was surprised how the public would buy into the acts of mediums, clairvoyants, and spiritualists that would use science to dupe society into believing in paranormal activities. During the 1850s, spiritualism and pseudoscience were becoming very popular. This is one of the things that led Faraday into launching a campaign to educate people and unmask the tricks used by spiritualists.

Even though Faraday went to great lengths to educate the masses, Victorian society, by then had already been swept up by the paranormal wave, and with imaginations running wild, they proved harder to convince.

To prove that there was no relationship between science and so-called paranormal activity, he devised several experiments. One of his most remarkable experiments was the one against table rotation, popularly known as table moving back in the 19th century. This paranormal phenomenon entailed a group of people surrounding a small circular table. The participants were asked to place their hands on the table. When the table began moving, spiritualists would claim that it was being moved by unseen forces.

Faraday, being the sceptical fellow that he was, came up with an experiment to prove the above theory wrong. He created a table that comprised of two surfaces held together by rubber bands and separated by ball bearings. Participants were asked to come and witness if spirits actually moved the tables, or if it was the people doing so unconsciously.

If spirits were causing the table to move, the top surface would lag behind. However, the results of the experiment showed that the participants were responsible for moving the table because the top surface was first to move and it was followed by the bottom one.

Similar to other like-minded scientists, Michael Faraday was disappointed by society’s fascination with spiritualism. Especially at a time when England had made significant strides in scientific studies. In the opinion of Michael, society was too naive and mediums were aware of how gullible people could be. Seeing clairvoyants moving crowds with the table moving and other mediocre activities, Michael was deeply shocked at the high numbers of scientific illiteracy. For a man that had dedicated his life towards sharing scientific knowledge, he never tired of using experiments to explain some of these phenomena.

Using demonstrations and lectures, Faraday helped open the eyes of many people by exposing the tricks used by spiritualists. Obviously, the table-turning wave was too popular for one man to discredit, but he did try his best. During that time, Faraday did receive letters whose messages were associating electromagnetism with paranormal activities. As we have seen earlier, he proved it wrong using a table-top indicator lever that showed how people used to turn tables because of mechanical pressure and not spiritual forces.

Michael Faraday didn’t just have a brilliant mind but he had a big heart. He was driven by a passion for teaching others about science. Through lecturers, Michael reached the minds of many kids and future scientists. It is said that Albert Einstein had a picture of Michael Faraday on his study wall. That goes to show you how much of an inspiration he was. It is because of his willingness to teach others that he saw it crucial to educate the public on electromagnetism and paranormal activities.

When it comes to the paranormal, Michael Faraday had more than an opinion. He strongly believed that there was no invisible force that caused tables to turn. Despite this phenomenon moving the minds of many people, including other scientists, Faraday did not go with the crowd. He stepped back, evaluated the phenomenon when it drew his attention and came out to the findings that no special force was involved in this activity considered as supernatural. To date, this remains to be the correct explanation.

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