The origin of…Magnet

“There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends. That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first; when you learn to live for others, they will live for you.” Paramahansa Yoganandya


A famous legend about the discovery of magnets tells the story of an elderly Cretan shepherd called Magnes. About 4.000 years ago, Magnes was herding his sheep in an area of Northern Greece called Magnesia. Suddenly the nails in his shoes and the metal tip of his staff became firmly stuck to the large, black rock on which he was standing. The stone was a lodestone, a stone that contains magnetite (a natural magnetic material), called after either Magnesia or Magnes himself.

The earliest discovery of the properties of lodestone was by the Chinese or the Greek. Romans Lucretius and Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) later wrote about magnetism. After its discovery, magnetite was associated with superstition and it was believed to have magical powers. People thought it had the ability to heal the sick, dissolve ships made of iron and scare away evil spirits. It was also believed that there were islands that had such magnetic attraction that ships were pulled to them and disappeared like that.
In Australia there is an island called Magnetic Island, named so by Lt James Cook in 1770 when he believed the magnetic compass on his ship the Endeavour was affected by the island (later it was proven he was wrong, but the name remained).

As early as during the Han Dynasty in China (around 206 BC), people found out that magnetite, when made into the shape of a needle and floated on water, always pointed in a north-south direction thus creating the first compasses (these were used for divination). They were used for navigational orienteering by 1040–1044 by the military and for maritime navigation by 1111 to 1117.

1. a piece of material (such as iron or steel) that is able to attract certain metals
2. something or someone that attracts people or things (source: Merriam Webster).

The English word magnet comes from Old French magnete, magnetite/magnet/ lodestone,” from Latin magnetum, lodestone, from Greek ho Magnes lithos, the Magnesian stone, from Magnesia, region in Thessaly where magnetized ore was obtained.
Dutch magnet and Italian magnete have the same origins.
Spanish imán comes from French aiemant/aimant, magnet, from Latin adamas, hard metal/diamond, from Greek adamas, invincible.

Magnet in other languages:
Dutch: de magneet
Spanish: el imán
Italian: il magnete


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