Hidden Attraction: The Mystery and History of Magnetism / Edition 1

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Overview

Long one of nature's most fascinating phenomena, magnetism was once the subject of many superstitions. Magnets were thought useful to thieves, effective as a love potion or as a cure for gout or spasms. They could remove sorcery from women and put demons to flight and even reconcile married couples. It was said that a lodestone pickled in the salt of sucking fish had the power to attract gold. Today, these beliefs have been put aside, but magnetism is no less remarkable for our modern understanding of it. In Hidden Attraction, Gerrit L. Verschuur, a noted astronomer and National Book Award nominee for The Invisible Universe, traces the history of our fascination with magnetism, from the first discovery of magnets in Greece, to state-of-the-art theories that see magnetism as a basic force in the universe.
The book begins with the early debunking of superstitions by Peter Peregrinus (Pierre de Maricourt), whom Roger Bacon hailed as one of the world's first experimental scientists (Perigrinus held that "experience rather than argument is the basis of certainty in science"). Verschuur discusses William Gilbert, who confronted the multitude of superstitions about lodestones in De Magnete, widely regarded as the first true work of modern science, in which Gilbert reported his greatest insight: that the earth itself was magnetic. We also meet Hans Christian Oersted, who demonstrated that an electric current could influence a magnet (Oersted did this for the first time during a public lecture) and Andre-Marie Ampere, who showed that a current actually produced magnetism. Verschuur also examines the pioneering experiments and theoretical breakthroughs of Faraday and Maxwell and Zeeman (who demonstrated the relationship between light and magnetism), and he includes many lively stories of discovery, such as the use of frogs by Galvani and Volta, and Hertz's accidental discovery of radio waves. Along the way, we learn many interesting scientific facts, perhaps the most remarkable of which is that lodestones are made by bacteria (a sediment organism known as GS-15 eats iron, converting ferric oxide to magnetite and, over billions of years, forming the magnetite layers in iron formations).
Boasting many informative illustrations, this is an adventure of the mind, using the specific phenomenon of magnetism to show how we have moved from an era of superstitions to one in which the Theory of Everything looms on the horizon.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
A journey through humanity's fascination with magnetism, from the ancient Greeks to the latest theories (no facts yet, ma'am, sorry) that propose magnetism as one of the basic forces of the universe. Verschuur (astronomy, Rhodes College, Memphis Tennessee) is author of the well received The Invisible Universe. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195106558
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Gerrit L. Verschuur is a professional radio astronomer, freelance writer, and contributing editor of Air and Space Magazine. He is the author or editor of nine previous books.

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Table of Contents

1 Of Mystery and Magnets 3
2 Clearing the Decks 19
3 On the Magnetical Philosophy 31
4 Let the Experimentation Begin 43
5 Oersted and Ampere: The Birth of Electromagnetism 55
6 Michael Faraday: The Era of Discovery Personified 73
7 Fields and Faraday 93
8 Maxwell Sees the Light 107
9 Heinrich Hertz's Grand Adventure 125
10 Curiouser and Curiouser 147
11 What If? 163
12 Magnetic Fields in Space 183
13 The Spark That Bridged the Universe 199
14 The Era of Creativity 209
15 The Wages of Curiosity 223
Appendix: The Pattern of Progress 233
Index 251
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