June 2nd, 2017

An Ancient History of Magnets

Chinese 4 compass copy

In keeping with the cross-cultural approach of Vitality Fusion, the history of magnets is rooted in Western and Eastern myth and fact.

One ancient legend dates back to approximately three thousand of years ago, when a shepherd named Magnes supposedly discovered magnets. While herding his flock of sheep in Magnesia, Greece, he was carrying his staff and wearing sandals that contained nails. The staff and nails attracted minerals from the soil. Magnes was curious to see why he was attracting minerals so he dug up the ground around where he had been walking. This is when he found dark rock containing iron oxide. This mineral rock is now identified as lodestone or magnetite.

Magnes was not the only person to describe lodestone. Around twenty five hundred to three thousand years ago, both The Yellow Emperor’s Classic from China and the Hindu Veda scriptures from India, noted that lodestones effectively healed ailments.

During the Middle Ages about 1000 AD, the magnetic compass was developed from lodestone. This device was very helpful to guide mariners during any voyage. In Scandinavia, the Vikings put a piece of lodestone in straw and then floated it in a bowl of water to indicate north and south. In 1088, during the Song Dynasty, Shen Kuo, a renowned scientist, artist and statesman, described the magnetic needle compass in his Dream Pool Essays. Shen Kuo made the same observation as the Vikings, that by floating a thin lodestone arrow on water, a compass could better measure the distance between the pole star and true north.

In multiple, geographically distant cultures, magnets have developed along these two parallel paths – one of pure technology, and one of therapeutic treatment. My next blog will look at the second of these two paths – Magnets and Modern Therapy.

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