Magnetism is a fascinating subject
and all though magnetic materials have been known since Ancient Greece, magnetism still presents a lot of questions. In our modern society it would be hard to get through a day normally without magnets. There are so many machines and apparatus that rely on magnetism that life would simply stall without this natural technology. The history of magnetism is full of important discoveries and research and this work continues today since scientists are still trying to uncover secrets of magnetism such as how our Earth’s magnetic field really works.The Ancient Greeks and Chinese
The history of magnetism can be said to begin simultaneously in Ancient Greece and China. The magnetic rock lodestone was discovered in both places at roughly the same time. The rock obviously included iron but just how it got magnetized is not completely clear. There is a theory about lightning charging the rocks but nothing has been determined. A practice in Ancient China was to place a small lodestone on a metallic plate and let it rotate in response to the Earth’s magnetic field. This can be seen as the origins of the compass.The Compass
The compass was the first practical application of magnets. In a compass a magnetic needle show us the directions by aligning itself to the Earth’s magnetic poles, North and South. In the 13th Century this changed the way of traveling by sea. Sailors could now rely on a compass instead of the sun and stars and this was a relief. During storms they could still navigate regardless of visibility. In modern times, magnetic compasses have also been used for air travel.Electricity and Magnetism
The first to suggest a connection between magnets and electricity was the Danish physicist, Christian Oersted. In the 19th century James Clerk Maxwell explained how magnetism and electricity are both part of the same force field. This discovery became the foundation of electromagnetism.Magnets Today
Today we use magnets without even thinking about it. They are in everything from micro ovens to credit cards. In fact, out Earth is a gigantic magnet with a magnetic field that goes out from the North pole, loops around the planet, and returns through the South pole. This magnetism is believed to come about due to a core of iron inside our globe. While scientists are well aware of how to use magnets for medical and electrical equipment the magnetism of the Earth is still shrouded in mystery and a source for a lot of research. There is a lot more to discover about magnetism so the history of magnetism continues to unfold and show us new amazing areas where magnets and electromagnets can improve our quality of life.
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