Each Christmas, the Royal Institution puts on a series of lectures that are aimed at fostering an interest in the sciences among children. These days they are also shown on television and include a number of experiments and demonstrations that are very visual in nature and are able to involve the children. These lectures were started by Michael Faraday when he was in charge of the Institution.
He started work there under another famous scientist, Sir Humphry Davy of Davy Lamp fame, and became director of the laboratory in 1825. He was subsequently made Fullerian Professor in 1833; so the lectures have a long history.
To be asked to give the lectures, even though they are aimed at children, is quite prestigious and in 1964 the honour fell to Dr Eric Laithwaite, Professor of Heavy Electrical Engineering at Imperial College, London. The subject of his lectures was naturally concerned with electricity, and this was most appropriate because Faraday is famous for the early work he did in the field of electromagnetism and electrolytic cells - he formulated Faraday's Law.
At one point in the lectures, Laithwaite carried out a demonstration that involved passing an electric current through a dish containing a ball. If performed correctly, the ball would leap up in the air in a dramatic fashion; however if the switching on of the current was mistimed it would merely bobble around in the dish. Laithwaite tried the demonstration twice without tremendous success; this was not unusual as the odds against a jump were quite high.
However, what happened next was highly unusual. Laithwaite is said to have felt the presence of a man who, for some reason, he was convinced was the grand old man himself. The spirit of Faraday told him that this time the demonstration would be successful and that he should announce this, in advance, to his audience. So confident of success was Laithwaite that he did just this and sure enough, the ball jumped out of the bowl!
Faraday's spirit was felt by many others on different occasions but always in the same place, near the front of the main lecture hall. After his encounters with Faraday (the one described above was merely the most dramatic) Professor Laithwaite is reported as commenting to the effect that, just because one could not understand or measure every phenomenon, that did not mean that such happenings were not real.
There is an ironic twist to this story. In life, Faraday was a deeply „ religious man who never failed to attend the Sunday services conducted by the Sandemanians (or Glassites) sect. He was a man who kept his science and religion rigidly separate, so how would he have explained the activity of his spirit? Driffield, Yorkshire | Aberdeen, Scotland | Arbroath, Scotland | Basildon, Essex | Blairgowrie | Cerro del vale | Edinburgh | Fife, Scotland | Ghost in Dumfries | Ghost in Perhshire | Harrises | Hereford, England | Hertfordshire, England | Killiecrankie, Scotland | Littlecote, Wiltshire | South Lanarkshire | York |
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