The Myths and Magic of the Magnet

By chameleon | 06 May 2016

This e-Magnets UK blogging site is designed to provide anyone interested in magnets and magnetism information on the myths and magic of one of the most fundamental physical forces in the universe.

The Discovery of Magnetite

The Greeks were probably the first people to discover magnetic properties in a naturally occurring mineral called magnetite (lodestone or iron oxide).  There is a story about a Greek shepherd named Magnes whose shoe nails stuck to a rock containing magnetite and that he was the first to experience the force of magnetism.



There is an abundance of magnetite in Scandinavia and it was the Vikings who used this to develop one of the first forms of compass which enabled them to sail through heavy sea fog.  The Chinese are also known to have developed compasses using the principle of magnetism, possibly even earlier than the Vikings and estimated to be around 4,500 years ago.

Due to the magnetic properties, Magnetite was believed to have magical powers and used by mystics, wizards, witches and even doctors.

However, it was until 1600 that William Gilbert (1544-1603) discovered the largest magnet of all, the planet Earth.  He was an English physician and scientist and the first man to research the properties of the lodestone (magnetic iron ore), publishing his findings in the influential ‘De Magnete’ (‘The Magnet’). He also invented the term ‘electricity’.

Magnets and Magnetism is fun and is a fundamental part of science education around the world.

For further information on Magnets and Magnetic Assemblies, please visit the e-Magnets website.

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