Passage 1 William Gilbert and Magnetism
A. 16th and 17th centuries had seen two greatest pioneers of modern science: Galileo and Gilbert. The impact of their findings is eminent. Gilbert is the first modern scientist, also the accredited father of the science of electricity and magnetism, an Englishman of learning and a physician at the court of Elizabeth. However, he is less well-known than he deserved.
B. Gilbert’s birth predated Galileo. He was born in an eminent local family in Colchester county in the UK. He went to grammar school, and then studied medicine at St. John’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1573. Later he traveled in the continent and eventually settled down in London.
C. He was a very successful and eminent doctor. All this culminated in his election to the president of the Royal Science Society. He was also appointed the personal physician for the Queen (Elizabeth I), later knighted by the Queen. He faithfully served her until she died. However, he didn’t outlive the Queen for long but only a few months after he had served King James.
D. Gilbert was first interested in chemistry but later changed his focus due to the large portion of mysticism of alchemy involved (such as the transmutation of metal). He gradually developed his interest in physics after the great minds of the ancient, particularly about the knowledge the ancient Greeks had about lodestones, strange minerals with the power to attract iron. His works include On the Magnet and Magnetic Bodies, Great Magnet of the Earth.
E. Gilbert’s discovery was so important to modern physics. He investigated into the nature of magnetism and electricity. He even coined the word “electric”. Though the early beliefs of magnetism were also largely entangled with superstitions such as that rubbing garlic on lodestone can neutralize its magnetism. He also found that metals can be magnetized by rubbing materials such as fur, plastic or the like on them. He named the ends of a magnet “north pole” and “south pole”. Though he started to study the relationship between magnetism and electricity, he didn’t complete it. His research of static electricity using amber and jet only demonstrated that objects with electrical charges can work like magnets attracting small pieces of paper and stuff. It is a French guy named Du Fay that discovered that there are actually two electrical charges, positive and negative.
F. He also questioned the traditional astronomical beliefs. Though a Copernican, he didn’t express in his quintessential beliefs that whether the earth is at the center of the universe or in orbit around the sun. However he believed that stars are not equidistant to the earth, but have their own earth-like planets orbiting around them. The earth is itself like a giant magnet, which is also why the compasses always point north. It spins on its axis that is aligned with the earth’s polarity. He even likened the polarity of the magnet to the polarity of the earth and built an entire magnetic philosophy on this analogy. In his explanation, magnetism was the soul of the earth. Thus a perfectly spherical lodestone, when aligned with the earth’s poles, would wobble all by itself in 24 hours. Further, he also believed that suns and other stars wobble just like the earth does around a crystal core.
G. His research method was revolutionary that he used experiments rather than pure logics and reasoning in human minds like the ancient Greek philosophers did. It was a new attitude toward scientific investigation. Until then, scientific experiments were not in fashion. It was because of this scientific attitude, together with his contribution to our knowledge of magnetism, that a unit of magneto motive force, also known as magnetic potential, was named