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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index F > Michael Faraday Quotes > Nomenclature

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Michael Faraday
(22 Sep 1791 - 25 Aug 1867)

English physicist and chemist who was a great experimentalist. His major contributions included the early understanding of electromagnetism.


Michael Faraday Quotes on Nomenclature (8 quotes)

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All your names I and my friend approve of or nearly all as to sense & expression, but I am frightened by their length & sound when compounded. As you will see I have taken deoxide and skaiode because they agree best with my natural standard East and West. I like Anode & Cathode better as to sound, but all to whom I have shewn them have supposed at first that by Anode I meant No way.
— Michael Faraday
Letter (3 May 1834) to William Whewell, who coined the terms. In Frank A. J. L. James (ed.), The Correspondence of Michael Faraday (1993), Vol. 2, 181. Note: Here “No way” is presumably not an idiomatic exclamation, but a misinterpretation from the Greek prefix, -a “not”or “away from,” and hodos meaning “way.” The Greek ἄνοδος anodos means “way up” or “ascent.”
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I have been driven to assume for some time, especially in relation to the gases, a sort of conducting power for magnetism. Mere space is Zero. One substance being made to occupy a given portion of space will cause more lines of force to pass through that space than before, and another substance will cause less to pass. The former I now call Paramagnetic & the latter are the diamagnetic. The former need not of necessity assume a polarity of particles such as iron has with magnetic, and the latter do not assume any such polarity either direct or reverse. I do not say more to you just now because my own thoughts are only in the act of formation, but this I may say: that the atmosphere has an extraordinary magnetic constitution, & I hope & expect to find in it the cause of the annual & diurnal variations, but keep this to yourself until I have time to see what harvest will spring from my growing ideas.
— Michael Faraday
Letter to William Whewell, 22 Aug 1850. In L. Pearce Williams (ed.), The Selected Correspondence of Michael Faraday (1971), Vol. 2, 589.
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I have taken your advice, and the names used are anode cathode anions cations and ions; the last I shall have but little occasion for. I had some hot objections made to them here and found myself very much in the condition of the man with his son and ass who tried to please every body; but when I held up the shield of your authority, it was wonderful to observe how the tone of objection melted away.
— Michael Faraday
Letter to William Whewell, 15 May 1834. In Frank A. J. L. James (ed.), The Correspondence of Michael Faraday (1993), Vol. 2, 186.
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I require a term to express those bodies which can pass to the electrodes, or, as they are usually called, the poles. Substances are frequently spoken of as being electro-negative, or electro-positive, according as they go under the supposed influence of a direct attraction to the positive or negative pole. But these terms are much too significant for the use to which I should have to put them; for though the meanings are perhaps right, they are only hypothetical, and may be wrong; and then, through a very imperceptible, but still very dangerous, because continual, influence, they do great injury to science, by contracting and limiting the habitual view of those engaged in pursuing it. I propose to distinguish these bodies by calling those anions which go to the anode of the decomposing body; and those passing to the cathode, cations; and when I have occasion to speak of these together, I shall call them ions.
— Michael Faraday
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1834, 124, 79.
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I wanted some new names to express my facts in Electrical science without involving more theory than I could help & applied to a friend Dr Nicholl [his doctor], who has given me some that I intend to adopt for instance, a body decomposable by the passage of the Electric current, I call an ‘electrolyte’ and instead of saying that water is electro chemically decomposed I say it is ‘electrolyzed’. The intensity above which a body is decomposed beneath which it conducts without decomposition I call the ‘Electrolyte intensity’ &c &c. What have been called: the poles of the battery I call the electrodes they are not merely surfaces of metal, but even of water & air, to which the term poles could hardly apply without receiving a new sense. Electrolytes must consist of two parts which during the electrolization, are determined the one in the one direction, and the other towards the poles where they are evolved; these evolved substances I call zetodes, which are therefore the direct constituents of electrolites.
— Michael Faraday
Letter to William Whewell (24 Apr 1834). In Frank A. J. L. James (ed.), The Correspondence of Michael Faraday: Volume 2, 1832-1840 (1993), 176.
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Magnetic lines of force convey a far better and purer idea than the phrase magnetic current or magnetic flood: it avoids the assumption of a current or of two currents and also of fluids or a fluid, yet conveys a full and useful pictorial idea to the mind.
— Michael Faraday
Diary Entry for 10 Sep 1854. In Thomas Martin (ed.), Faraday's Diary: Being the Various Philosophical Notes of Experimental Investigation (1935), Vol. 6, 315.
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Your remarks upon chemical notation with the variety of systems which have arisen, &c., &c., had almost stirred me up to regret publicly that such hindrances to the progress of science should exist. I cannot help thinking it a most unfortunate thing that men who as experimentalists & philosophers are the most fitted to advance the general cause of science & knowledge should by promulgation of their own theoretical views under the form of nomenclature, notation, or scale, actually retard its progress.
— Michael Faraday
Letter to William Whewell (21 Feb 1831). In Isaac Todhunter, William Whewell, An Account of his Writings (1876), Vol. 1., 307. Faraday may have been referring to a paper by Whewell published in the Journal of the Royal Institution of England (1831), 437-453.
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[The new term] Physicist is both to my mouth and ears so awkward that I think I shall never use it. The equivalent of three separate sounds of i in one word is too much.
— Michael Faraday
Quoted in Sydney Ross, Nineteenth-Century Attitudes: Men of Science (1991), 10.
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