Magnetism: Discovery, History and Inventions

Magnets are a common place household item these days, but magnets were not always so common. Magnets have been around for a very long time, and they have an interesting history, a discovery veiled in legend, and many inventions would not be possible if it weren’t for magnetism.

The first magnets are told to have come from two possible origins, and legend say that a “shepherd named Magnes” was tending to his sheep one day when his “iron crock and the iron nails of his sandals were clinging to a large black rock” (Leokum, 1986, p.170). This is the when people realized that some rocks would attract iron. The same type of magical stone was found in a town in Asia Minor called Magnesium, and these two stories are where the idea of magnetism originated (Leokum, 1986, p.170).

As time passed magnetism was further investigated and more discoveries were made. People started to realize that they could create magnets by rubbing “pieces of iron against the magnet stones,” and these new magnets were called “lodestones” (Leokum, 1986, p.170). This discovery makes me wonder if people thought magnets were magical. Many centuries ago it was discovered that a suspended magnet would point just about north, and this is how the “creation of the compass” occurred (Leokum, 1986, p..170).

Discoveries about magnetism continued to be made “during Queen Elizabeth’s time;” and people then discovered that every magnet had two opposite poles; it was also discovered at this time that “like poles repel each other” and “unlike pole attract” each other (Leokum, 1986, p.170). Magnets were not always as well understood as they are now.

The next big magnet break through occurred in 1820 when a “Danish scientists discovered that a wire carrying an electrical current also created a magnetic field” (Leokum, 1986, p.171). This creation was the beginning of new developments in magnetic science. This The electromagnet was created because of this discovery and “it was more powerful than any magnets ever known before” (Leokum, 1986, p.171).

The electromagnet is an very powerful magnet that allowed scientists to create many other things we know today. The electromagnet is created by “putting a soft iron core inside wieres that were connected to a battery;” this caused the”iron core to become magnetized” (Leokum, 1986, p.171).

This invention led to many scientific breakthroughs that have an impact on our lives today. The electromagnet allowed “anything that uses an electrical circuit” to be built such as bells and motors (Leokum, 1986, p.171). It is amazing how a small stone can contribute to so many amazing inventions.

Later on Michael Faraday document the “fields of force,” and the “lines of force” of a magnet (Leokum, 1986, p.171). This discovery allowed many amazing inventions to be built. The documentation of “how far the force of a magnet reaches out form a magnet” that was conducted by Faraday made such inventions possible as the “telephone, the light, and the radio” (Leokum, 1986, p.171).

It is amazing to me that a rock that is found in the ground has such a powerful force. It is also amazing to me hat this rock can help unlock many of the mysteries of electricity, and it has helped us produce many spectacular inventions. Magnets are interesting, useful, and complex; they originate in legend, and it continues on in great invention.


Leokum, A. (1986). The Big book of tell me why. New York, NY: Grosset and Dunlap.

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Sarah Ganly is an artist, entrepreneur, and lover of life. She is a lifelong learner dedicated to making people smile.

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Sarah Ganly

Sarah Ganly is an artist, entrepreneur, and lover of life. She is a lifelong learner dedicated to making people smile.