History of Magnetism

The Chinese discovered the magnetic compass as early as 200 BC. At first fortune-tellers used it. Later people realised that it was a way to find the direction of North and South.

The ancient Greeks knew that the lodestone or magnetite attracted iron towards it. It is known that the Vikings used a lodestone to navigate. Later at the end of the twelfth century Europeans were using this simple compass to aid navigation.

During the 16th century Sir William Gilbert discovered that the properties of the lodestone could be transferred to ordinary pieces of iron by rubbing them with a lodestone.

What is a Magnet?

The first magnets were made of iron. These days they are:







Permanent magnets do not readily lose their magnetism.


What do magnets do, Test for a magnet
Magnetic fields
The Earth's magnetic field
Theory of magnetism
Induced magnetism
Magnetic properties of iron and steel
Storing magnets
Making a magnet
Primary science applications
Fleming's Left Hand Rule
Self assessment
Comments, reflections and study action plan