A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELECTROMAGNETISM

A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELECTROMAGNETISM - The history of...

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The history of science is science itself; the history of the individual, the individual. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Mineralogy and Geology Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty-a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture. Bertrand Russell The Study of Mathematics (1902) A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELECTROMAGNETISM The history of electromagnetism is intertwined with the revolutions in astronomy and mechanics, and with the history of science and intellectual history in general. It is convenient to distinguish three periods in the history which we might call early, classical, and modern, each. initiated by certain clusters of critical, distinguishing discoveries. Curiously, these clusters occurred around the centennial years 1600, 1800, and 1900. The Early Period: 1600-1800. Of the tumultuous social and intellectual changes of the late Renaissance, none had a more profound effect on Western thought than the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, which overturned traditional beliefs about the nature of the physical universe and promoted development of the scientific method. In explorations of unknown parts of the world, in religious beliefs, in political structures, in the arts, and in the physical sciences, new ideas were replacing traditional authority. Scholarship before the seventeenth century, including the study of the natural sciences, was characterized by axiomatic, deductive logic, derived from the ancient philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle, and modeled on the methods of Euclid. This authoritarian approach, consistent with established religious and political practices, prevailed through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. At this time, geographical explorations and new inventions such as those by Galileo Galilei stimulated precise observation and measurement of nature. Many of the physical and astronomical concepts derived from Aristotle and Ptolemy were shown to be wrong, demonstrating the limitations of the purely axiomatic method. A new start was needed, free from the ancient dogmas. The early period is thus characterized by the rise of the scientific method, founded largely on the vision of Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes, exemplified by Galileo, and advanced by Isaac Newton. In this new mode of thinking, induction joins deduction as an equal, mathematics becomes the preferred language, and experiment decides between competing theories. Several important events mark the beginning of the early period of electromagnetism. William Gilbert's de Magnete, published in 1600, was the first systematic description of experiments done with magnets and dielectrics. Francis Bacon's The Advancement of Learning, published in 1605, described and defined the new methodology and promoted its application in acquiring useful knowledge. In 1609, Galileo constructed a telescope with sufficient power to open new vistas in astronomy to human observation. The advances in electromagnetism are contemporaneous with the great period of development of the
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A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELECTROMAGNETISM - The history of...

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