Lot 393

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Michael Faraday PSA MINT 9 ALS Re: Stoves, Chimneys, & Ventilation

A 1p autograph letter signed by British chemist Michael Faraday (1791-1867), as "M Faraday" at lower right. October 26, 1850. Written at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in London, England. Encapsulated and PSA/DNA certified and graded MINT 9. Inscribed overall on a leaf of watermarked stationery. Expected wear including creased paper folds, and some mounting traces verso, else near fine. The actual size of the leaf is 4.25" x 6.375" while the slab measures 6.625" x 10.125."

Michael Faraday replied to an unknown correspondent named "Rd. D Lawes" about heating methods. Gas and coal were the most popular domestic heating sources during this period in Victorian England. These combustibles provided consumers with a reliable and affordable heating source, however, it was already well-documented by Faraday and other scientists at this time that serious health problems could result from inadequate ventilation of byproduct fumes.

Faraday replied in full:

"R Institution
26 Octr. 1850

My dear Sir

I am quite against gas stoves or any other stoves without chimneys. If they have chimneys leading finally into the exterior air then they are safe proper + pleasant. - I do not know what Mr. Defries stoves are + I have no time to look at them.

Ever Truly Yours

M Faraday

Rd. D. Lawes
+c +c +c."

Michael Faraday had significant experience in studying and experimenting with ventilation, beginning with watching his father, a blacksmith, at work. In the 1840s, Faraday investigated some of the negative consequences of burning coal and gas. Burning fossil fuels often introduced chemicals and particulate matter into living areas, causing its occupants overheating, headaches, and acute physical discomfort. Faraday developed special fixtures for reading lamp chimneys to carry away toxic fumes from living areas. He also tested out chimneys for lighthouse ventilation during this period, and his advances with lighthouse chimney apparatus were soon applied to the Atheneum, Buckingham Palace, and other municipal buildings. It was not just physical health that could be negatively impacted: in his "Lecture on Light and Ventilation" delivered at the Royal Institution on April 7, 1843, Faraday showed that sulphuric acid and heat generated by lighting caused the rapid deterioration of leather-bound books. Ventilation mattered a great deal, and chimneys helped to create the "safe proper + pleasant" environment which Faraday described in his letter.

Faraday wrote rather curtly that he "did not know what Mr. Defries stoves are and I have no time to look at them." This referred to Nathan Defries, a gas engineer who patented the first dry gas meter in Great Britain in 1840. Subsequent patents secured in 1846 and 1849 enabled Defries to offer great things to his customers. In an 1854 advertisement in the medical journal "The Lancet," Defries and his associate Bachoffner promoted their "Royal Polytechnic Gas Fire," a "unique and beautiful mode of Warming Privates Houses, Shops, Public Buildings, &c. Smoke, dust, ashes, and accidents from fire are effectually prevented by its use, while it presents all the comfort and appearance of an open coal fire, securing, at the same time, perfect ventilation. To be seen in action at Defries's Office, 145, Regent-street, London…"

This letter reminds us that, in addition to theorizing and proving the existence of numerous foundational ideas relating to electricity and magnetism, Michael Faraday also applied his knowledge of chemistry to practical matters. Faraday was long associated with the Royal Institution. He maintained a flat, study, and laboratory there, and conducted many of his most important experiments there. At the Royal Institution, Faraday had attended lectures as a student; served as a Chemical Assistant after 1813; was appointed a Director of Laboratory after 1825; and accepted the position of Fullerian Professor of Chemistry after 1833.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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