Discovery of Magnets | Physics | Class 6 | Embibe: Achieve TN Board
  • Written By simran
  • Last Modified 27-06-2022
  • Written By simran
  • Last Modified 27-06-2022

Discovery of Magnets: Interesting Facts

The history of magnets dates back to 600 BC. Although it has existed for a long time, scientists only started understanding what it was in the 20th century. Since then, magnets have been around us and have assisted us in our daily lives. We can see magnets in our daily lives, from phones to magnetic stickers.

Magnets are used in everything ranging from pin holders, and magnetic boards. Large-scale uses of magnets include cranes to carry the scraps from industries and landfills. One of the most common uses of magnets has been to find directions because of their use in the compass. But how were magnets discovered? Read further to find out.

History of Magnets

Greek legends believe that the magnet was discovered by a shepherd named Magnes, who belonged to Magnesia, Greece. It was thought that he discovered magnetism when the ferrule of his stick got stuck to an iron. His stick had iron and nails, which eventually got attracted to the rock containing magnetic properties. Since then, the rock has been considered magnetite after the name of the person and country where it was discovered.

Magnetite is also a naturally occurring iron oxide. It can attract magnets or be even turned into a permanent magnet. The pieces of magnets that are naturally magnetised are known as loadstone. People from Ancient Egypt also used magnets to play tricks and make objects. They are used to prepare for the positioning of the magnets. Apart from that, magnet was also used in China for the construction of gates. The gates were made using loadstone to save the palace. The metal armours got attracted and stuck to the magnetic gates. Therefore, it prevented the employees from entering the castle.

Magnets have been used for a long time. They have existed since 600 BC, and in the 20th century, their actual purpose came into use. Magnetism was first observed in magnetite, referred to as Lodestone, which is made of iron oxide, a chemical compound made using oxygen and iron. The first users of the same started calling it a magnet because it could attract iron, which the ancient Greeks knew.

William Gilbert was the first to bring forth the scientific use of magnets by proving the phenomenon. His experiments led to the discovery that Earth in itself is a weak magnet. Carl Fredrich Gauss, a German scientist, also conducted experiments to theoretically prove the magnetism theory of Earth.

Who was the founder of magnets?

Magnets have existed since ancient times. The application and discovery of magnets have varied. Each region is different, and therefore, the foundation has been different. Given below are some of the founders of magnet


Magnes is a Greek shepherd who is said to have discovered sheep in Magnesia, one region in Northern Greece, some 4000 years ago. He said to have taken a step and found that the nail on his shoe and the metal tip of the staff got stuck on the rock. As he became intrigued, he started tagging and found the rock, a lodestone. Magnesia is said to be the inspiration for magnetite.


Roman author and naturalist are Pliny, the Elder. They undertook important scientific research for Roman Emperor Vespasian in the initial stages that described that a hill was made of stone attracted to iron. Pliny had discovered the attributes of magnetite and said that it was responsible for powers of magic that would lead to various superstitious theories about the material and determine the possibility for which the ships were missing.


Scandinavia has huge deposits of lodestones. Scandinavia also has insufficient light, making it tough for ships to navigate during winter. However, the Vikings had to use the properties of lodestones. The Vikings used compass-like properties because of magnetic properties. The tool was made of lodestone and iron around 1000 BC. The Viking sailors used the tool made of the magnetized iron needle with a piece of a straw inserted. As per the legend, it is used to float in water determines the south and north direction.


The details about the magnets’ discovery lie in France’s roots as well. French scholar Petrus Peregrinus 1200 discovered magnets. It has a freely-pivoting needle. He was the first one to introduce the first dry compass. All of it was depicted in the report as well. He was a part of the crusade to attack the Italian city of Lucera.


It is believed that the Chinese were the first to discover the mariner compass, which has the same functionality as the Vikings. In the early 800ADs, the Chinese found a splinter of lodestone floating on water. Marco Polo is an Italian explorer who took it and brought it back. As a result, the Europeans started using it to explore the oceans, the same as the Vikings have been using for 500 years using different versions of the compass.


Hans Christian explored the relationship between magnetism and electricity. He proved his theory by placing a magnetic connection close to an electric wire. The accuracy of the compass will be thrown off. 

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