The Royal Institution seems to claim that they still possess some of Faraday's original gold colloids: "These liquids are some of the first examples of metallic gold colloids, made by Michael Faraday over 150 years ago."

However, in a publication in Gold Bulletin (D. Thompson, Gold Bull. 2007, 40(4), 267-269.), the following is stated: "Faraday's original gold colloids were very stable and at least one example survived until the second World War, when it was accidentally destroyed by enemy action [...]."

Do Faraday's gold colloidal solutions still exist?


The Royal Institution of Great Britain has a Facebook page, and I shared this question there, hoping they would respond here. Instead they answered my inquiry on Facebook itself. Therefore I am quoting it here:

Hi Martin. I'm afraid David Thompson is a little mistaken. We have multiple examples of Faraday colloids with the evidence to prove their provenance. We have over 10 samples and a further 700+ slides of his colloidal solutions which have been fixed to glass.

For more information, you can look at the research of Ryan Tweney who has looked at the solutions and slides extensively: http://ma.ecsdl.org/content/MA2009-02/3/202.full.pdf

There's also more information on our website: http://www.rigb.org/our-history/iconic-objects/iconic-objects-list/faraday-gold-colloids?hc_location=ufi


Please note that I haven't seen the sample myself!

However, the Royal Institution claims that a bottle with the collidal gold solution is on display at Michael Faraday's Magnetic Laboratory (see bottle at the bottom of the image) in the museum of the Royal Institution.


This might be nitpicking and English isn't my native language, but David Thompson does not explicitly state in his article in Gold Bulletin that all samples are lost.

On the other hand, Ryan D. Tweney in his article Discovering Discovery: How Faraday Found the First Metallic Colloid, published in Perspectives on Science, 2006, 14, 97-121 (DOI) not only describes the finding of 700 surviving microscopic slides in Faraday's reconstructed magnetic with gold film samples and numbered in Faraday's hand and that the numbers correspond to the numbering in Faraday's 1856 Diary (lab journal) but continues:

It had long been known that some of Faraday's gold colloids survive from the 1856 research: Four bottles of these are on display at the Royal Institution in London […]. These few colloids are all that survive of many dozens referred to in the Diary.


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