SR-10-Gilbert - failed variation was too inconsistent...

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William Gilbert and the magnetic Earth Stephen Pumfrey, Latitude and the Magnetic Earth (2002) Attraction of magnets ( lodestones ) known since ancient times. Seen as mysterious, magical; occult quality . Did not fit well with Aristotelianism; medieval scholastics offered only vague theories based on neo-Platonic idea of sympathies . That magnetized needles point north was first discovered by Chinese; Italian sailors learned of it through Arabs by 1100s. Treated construction and use of mariner’s compass as a form of natural magic , surrounded by ritualized practices. Ascribed directive property of magnets to influence of celestial poles . As Europeans sailed into Atlantic in 15th and 16th centuries, they encountered variation : compass needles did not point due north, but off by an amount that varied from place to place. Efforts to use this to find longitude
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Unformatted text preview: failed; variation was too inconsistent. William Gilbert (1544–1603): learned English physician and natural philosopher. In De Magnete (1600), described experiments and laid out ‘ magnetic philosophy ’ meant to displace Aristotelianism. Said Earth is a great magnet ; compasses align with Earth’s magnetic force rather than with celestial poles. Used small spherical magnet ( terrella or ‘little Earth’) to mimic actions of the magnetic Earth. Gilbert’s use of contrived experiments went against Aristotelians’ focus on ‘the ordinary course of nature.’ Gilbert attacked scholastic philosophers who relied on books and theories rather than examining phenomena for themselves. He had much in common with Paracelsians, especially concerning active powers of nature and need for direct experiment to grasp and harness them for human use....
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