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Magnet History Part 1

Posted by LE Carlson on Jun 25th 2020

CMS Magnetics 06/23/20 Magnet History (pt 1)

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Magnet History

Electricity & magnets must be studied together to fully understand how magnets came

Load stone Magnetite

Into being as one is not exclusive of the other.

The earliest electrical/magnetic phenomenon was when a piece of amber was rubbed and light objects such as wheat chaff “stuck” to it. This was of course the same thing that causes your hair to go nuts when brushed, static electricity.

It is said that early Vikings were using magnets to navigate in the form of an early compass.

Another “attraction” was observed when a piece of loadstone was attracted to iron. This probably was observed early on in history but was not written down before the 6th century BCE. This was noted by a Greek mathematician, astronomer and pre-Socratic philosopher Thales of Miletus (about 585B.C.) He wrote that loadstone “had a soul” and therefore was attracted to the iron.

First scientific Explanations (Sort Of)

Let us now move up a few hundred years to The first discussion that begins to look like a scientific explanation I can find is in Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura). Lucretius was born in 98 B.C.

The first discussion that begins to look like a scientific explanation I can find is in Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura). Lucretius was born in 98 B.C. He was summarizing the views of Epicurus (342 - 270 B.C.), himself a follower of Democritus. They all believed everything to be made up of atoms. The atoms followed natural laws. The soul too was made up of atoms, which fell apart when it died. its whole body." They further thought that small particles coming from the loadstone push the air out of the way and the consequent suction draws in the iron.

St. Augustine

Moving into the Christian era, St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD)said he was "thunderstruck" when he first saw the magnet lift a chain of rings, each attached to the next by magnetic attraction. He was even more astonished, he says, when a brother bishop moved a bit of iron around on a silver plate by moving a magnet beneath it. He was puzzled to find the loadstone, unlike amber, would not move straw, making a clear differentiation, therefore, between electricity and magnetism.

explain why a ring thus attached to a magnet will attract a further ring to itself, and says he's seen five pieces of iron held magnetically in a chain, only the first one being in contact with the loadstone. St. Augustine actually used these magnetic phenomena to

The Chinese

The Chinese navigated with a sliver of lodestone that they floated on a basin of water as early as 800 A.D. Explorers like Marco Polo brought the magnetic compass back to Europe.

Gaius Plinius Secundus

(AD 23/24–79), called Pliny the Elder a Roman author and naturalist & a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire. While operating in his “naturalist” capacity, he conducted significant scientific research for the then Roman Emperor Vespasian (his buddy). He documented his research in a series of books called Encyclopedic Naturalis Historia (Natural History).

He documented the existence of a hill in Greece and that its contents attracted iron. He wrote about this loadstone and its magic powers. Now the hill was there and it was in Greece but that “magic” statement started years of superstition concerning magnets. One included the story that lost ships had been pulled to the bottom of the sea by super strong magnets.

Another example is Pliny “validated” the strongly believed idea that garlic weakened magnets. This was first mentioned, by pliny or another school of thought wa that someone copying his work added an extra letter to the word “other” which changed the word to “garlic” and started about 5 centuries of sailors looking to avoid garlic & onions as to not to not upset the compass.

William Gilbert

(1540 - 1603)

Publicatiions: “De Magnete" was published in 1580

Schooling & Organizations: St. John's College, Cambridge, President of the Royal College of Physicians, and Queen Elizabeth's personal physician

William Gilbert took the first scientific approach to document the capacities of magnets. At the same time, he worked on magnetism, and after seeing his book Galileo pronounced Gilbert "great to a degree that is enviable", not the sort of thing Galileo said too often. Gilbert was one of the earliest Copernicans, probably because the Italian Giardino Bruno gave lectures at Oxford in the 1580's. Incidentally, the year De Magnete was published, Bruno was burned at the stake in his native Italy because of his beliefs about the universe. Elizabethan England, fortunately, was a less dogmatic place.

Gilbert was the first to understand really clearly that the earth itself is a giant magnet. He constructed a "little earth", terrella in Latin, a magnetized sphere of loadstone, and showed by placing a small compass at many points on its surface that both the direction the compass pointed when "horizontal" and the angle it dipped through when "vertical" corresponded with what was observed in corresponding points on earth. From this, he also concluded that measuring the dip could give sailors the latitude. This got him in some trouble, because in fact the earth's field has enough irregularities to make this fairly inaccurate. He thought that the fact that the earth rotated about a line almost exactly through the two magnetic poles could hardly be a coincidence. He also noted that the moon, in going around the earth, always has the same face towards the earth. He wondered if the force between the two might be magnetic, and we always saw the pole attracted to the earth.He argued against the old theory that the attractions were caused by effluvia somehow wafting the air and creating a partial vacuum, because swishing the air around takes time, and the attractions were instant if you suddenly moved one object close to another.