De Magnete

De Magnete - William Gilbert Three hundred plus pages on how a magnet works. Unsurprisingly, not the most irresistible reading, but it’s a book that has to be appreciated for the time in which it was written. Detailed in his observations and specific in how to recreate his experiments, Gilbert scientifically debunks and discovers the secrets of the loadstone. Rubbing garlic on it doesn’t diminish its magnetic properties (true), heat will destroy a magnet (sort of true, if heated to Curie temp, but it’s reversible), and the planets circle the sun because of magnetism (wrong, but still impressive in that the heliocentric argument inspired Galileo).

Gilbert also spurred the use of the word electricity, and recognized it as a separate force from magnetism, when discussing the static electricity amber produces when rubbed (electricus is the Latin for “amber-like”). Even the layman like myself can appreciate the foundation Gilbert lays for those who would shortly follow him. Toward the end, it gets a bit detailed in how to reconstruct magnetic tests which I wasn’t about to do. I’m a product of my time and I recall a lot of the basics from my 5th grade science class. Ultimately, for the 21st century, it’s a long book about magnets.