The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) commissioned two bronze statues of Michael Faraday in the late 1980s. One statue was to be positioned in front of the IEE’s London venue at Savoy Place and the other at its Stevenage Office, Michael Faraday House.
The March 1988 IEE Council minutes show that they and the Executive Board had considered delaying the unveiling date until 1991, the Bicentenary of Faraday’s birth, but in the end decided to have the Savoy ceremony as soon as the statue was erected. Amongst other things there were two specific reasons why the statues were being discussed in early 1988. Michael Faraday House was then being built at Stevenage and secondly, the landmark green telephone box, that used to stand outside Savoy Place, had just been destroyed following a car collision.
The unveiling of the statue at Savoy Place occurred on Wednesday 1 November 1989 and was performed by His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent. All members of the IEE Council were invited to be present and were also invited to attend the Mountbatten Lecture that was held afterwards at Savoy Place. The image below is taken from the 16 November 1989 issue of IEE News and shows the IEE President at that time, Dr Jim Smith, together with the Duke of Kent.
The life-size statue was commissioned by the IEE to commemorate the life and work of the man, widely regarded as the father of electrical engineering. The figure is a copy of John Henry Foley’s marble statue of Faraday commissioned by the Royal Institution soon after his death in 1867 and completed in 1876. The original stood in the Royal Institution, where Faraday spent his working life, beginning as a laboratory assistant to Sir Humphry Davy and rising to be Fullerian Professor. The statue depicts Faraday holding the induction coil which he used for his most famous experiment in which he discovered electromagnetic induction on 29 August 1831.
Restoration of the Statue
The photograph below shows the statue as it was shortly after the unveiling in 1989.
However, following the passage of time, the condition of the statue deteriorated, bronze being notoriously prone to corrosion in the London climate. The statue has been surrounded in a protective box for the past 2 years whilst Savoy Place has undergone major refurbishment. When the box was removed in May 2015, the statue looked in a sorry state and patches of active corrosion were present. The photograph below shows a close-up of the statue on the day that the box around the statue was removed.
A conservation assessment report was produced in July 2015 and an extract from that report on the condition of the bronze statue is reproduced below;
“Bronze: The statue is in a poor condition. Its surface is covered in several layers of dirt and grime and corrosion is widespread and disfiguring both on the front and back surfaces, though the front is more acute than the back. The majority of the corrosion appears to be stable, though some smaller areas particularly around the base of the coat show signs of active corrosion. There appears to be some remains of original patina intact in patches, particularly where parts of the statue are more sheltered. Much of the corrosion is a result of contact with the urban environment for many years without any cleaning or preservation treatment. It is likely that the recent boxing-up that that was necessary due to the building works in the vicinity has accelerated some of the degradation.”
Conservators began work on restoring the statue and its plinth at the beginning of October 2015 and after almost 3 weeks of work the newly restored statue emerged. The fully restored statue and plinth are shown below.
A plan has also been put in place to carry out minor protective maintenance once a year so that hopefully Michael remains in this pristine condition for a little longer than was the case in the past.