Michael Faraday and J J Thomson paved the way
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Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

"Innovation" and "invention" are devilishly difficult to define. "Invention" is commonly used to cover everything from a raw idea to what is described and claimed in a valid patent. Very few inventions, including patented inventions, ever create any new value.

"Innovation" is sometimes used as broadly as "invention" but somehow bespeaks more mystery. We can resolve some of the mystery by limiting ourselves to innovations using science which must be trustworthy or the innovation won't work. We can also reserve "innovation" to mean something which does create new value, which pushes mystery onto ideas of "value."

We can resolve some of that mystery by understanding "value" by reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [link] and the Covenants thereto [link]. So for us — you and me at least — "innovations" advance human rights using trustworthy science.

For example, Michael Faraday, a self-educated person knowing only basic algebra, introduced the idea of an electromagnetic field and observed magnetic induction of electric current. These innovations, in the hands of many others, became the basis of endless other innovations very few of which do not, or can not, advance human rights.

This puts some very attractive flesh onto our criteria for trusting science. Those endless electrodynamic innovations show us mountains of trustworthy science. And, human rights are advanced, and can be further advanced, by those endless innovations.

Here we start our story with Faraday and jump over mountains of science and innovation to J. J. Thomson

We humans have always been curious about the stuff we see around us and curious about what causes changes in that stuff. Maybe all beasties are so curious. Michael Faraday's work is a great example of curiosity which we all can share.

I did share. When I was in fourth grade I played with electricity and magnets. Without having heard of Faraday, I repeated his results. Calling Faraday's discovery of magnetic induction one of the most transformative, as we hear in the next video, is not overkill because that discovery is the foundation for example of all of our uses of electric motors.

Faraday magnetic induction

By the end of the ninteenth century research was more professional. But, it was still connected with with our non-professional curiosity.

I have very happy memories of reading the papers J. J. Thomson published about observations made with this apparatus. When I read this work there were old-timers about sharing the gossip that Mr. Everett, who built the apparatus, would not let Thomson near it because Thomson was a klutz in the lab. Klutz or not, his work provided trustworthy evidence that electrons are particles and also moved science forward greatly. Our current sciences of matter owe much to this work.

JJ Thomson's Cathode-ray tube

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J J Thomson (1856-1940) in the lab

These two examples are hugely potent. We went from self-educated Faraday doing experiments a fourth grader can do today to highly professional Thomson working in a lab not so different from many labs today.

In the hundred years after Faraday's death (1867) living and working conditions changed more than any time before or since. These changes in living and working conditions are detailed in a great new book by Robert Gordon [link].

Those changes in living and working conditions depend on the work of Faraday.

And Thomson and many others.