Discovery of magnetism



Phenomenon of magnetism is known to humankind for many centuries. Chinese sailors used magnets for navigation. It is believed that “Thales”, Greek philosopher (sixth century B.C.), was the first to observe phenomenon of magnetism in lodestone (for their directional property which is when suspended rotates in certain geographical direction).

After his discovery, lodestone (leading stone) was often mentioned in many ancient writings. It was given the name “magnet” after Magnesia, a district in the Asia Minor where large magnetic deposits are found.

Why the name Lodestone:
Lodestone stands for leading stone which is attributed to directional property of magnet as they orient themselves in geographical north-south direction when suspended freely.


Story of a shepherd Magnes:
According to a legend, in ancient Greece, the first magnet was discovered by a shepherd, Magnes. While tending his flock of sheep / goats for grazing, he observed that iron tip of his stick was being pulled hard towards the rock. The Greeks named this strange type of rock magnet in honor of the shepherd. Later it was called magnetite (which is an ore of iron).