Wednesday, 21 July 2010

According to legend, a shepherd little boy named Mantagues did discover a mineral that attracted the nails of his sandals, or his nails in his cane in some versions) as he crossed the mountains some twenty-five hundred years ago. Today it is known as magnetite.

Other great and varied sources claimed that the word "magnetism" comes from Magnesia, a city in ancient Greace where the stone could be found. At some point it was observed that when a magnet is left free to spin, it always comes to rest pointing North in the same position. We don't know exactly when this discovery was made, except for the fact that in 1975 Pierre de Maricourt differentiated the two poles.

During the fifteenth and a half century this unique characteristic of magnets was being used in navigation by the Arabs, the Vikings, and the Europeans.

The use of some form of magnetic compass was also commonly in use by the Chinese as early as around 109 AD. Magnetic therapy as such was not in wide use at the time, including the use of magnetic bracelets in magnetic jewellery. However, detailed experiments and possible observations about the properties of magnetism were not documented until much later. Magnets are mentioned in several documents written before the thirteenth century, but the "broken magnet" experiment, which demonstrates that a magnet is actually composed of many smaller magnets, was not known until A.D. 1299. At that time, European did not always pointed exactly to the geographic North.

Although the exact nature of magnetism was not yet known, around 1590 the Flemish cartographer G. Mercator, who created the first map of this and other worlds, succeeded in solving, more or less, the problem of a map where the geographic north indicated by the magnetic needle. And in 1590, William Gilbert, the official court physician of Queen Elizabeth, published his famous work De Magnete, which actually and in real terminology and great effect summarises all that was known and believed about magnetism in the Elizabethan age and attests to the use of magnets in magnetic therapy, many sometimes in fact with primitive and old magnetic bracelets and the treatment of illness.


Anonymous said...

The role of the ancient English should also not be underestimated. They have found symmetrically sized magnets strung together (possibly as bracelets and necklaces) in burial grounds in Wiltshire close to Stonehenge.It is a known fact that the people who built Stonehenge must have been very advanced. To bring the stones there and raise them into their precise positions too great knowledge as well as social cohesion and organization. And in some ways, their use of these magnets (and magnetic bracelets) is symbolic of that social cohesion.

Lou Presley said...

I can confirm that there is evidence of the use of magnetism for therapeutic and medicinal purposes in pre-Celtic England.

I was a member of the archeological dig on Salisbury Plain (near Stonehenge) and was one of the small group that found traces of magnets and strings of magnets in communal graves. We also found small bottles. It was impossible to analyze the contents of the bottles other than to say that it was organic. But anthropologists who looked at opur findings have confirmed that the bottles were too small to have been used for normal drinking of water or other beverages.

This suggests - according to the cultural anthropologists - that they would probably have contained potions to be used for medicinal (or magic and ritual) purposes. Furthermore, carbon dating has established that these graves go back to at least 2200 BC, the time of the Beaker people, when Stonehenge was built. This is the strongest evidence we have yet that magnetic therapy was used in ancient England.