Gilbert , William
(1544–1603) English physicist and physician
Gilbert, who was born at Colchester, was educated at Cambridge, where he took his degree in 1569 and later became a fellow. He moved to London in 1573, became a member of the Royal College of Physicians, and served as physician to Queen Elizabeth I and briefly to James I. In 1600 he published the first great English scientific work De magnete, magnetisque corporibus, et de magno magnete tellure (On the Magnet, Magnetic Bodies, and the Great Magnet Earth) in which he presented his investigations into magnetic bodies and electrical attractions. It is a remarkably modern work – rigorously experimental, emphasizing observation, and rejecting as unproved many popular beliefs about magnetism, such as the supposed ability of diamond to magnetize iron. He showed that a compass needle was subject to magnetic dip (pointing downward) and, reasoning from experiments with a spherical lodestone, explained this by concluding that the Earth acts as a bar magnet. He also introduced the term magnetic pole. The book was widely available on the Continent, there being five editions in Germany and Holland alone before 1628, and was very influential in the creation of the new mechanical view of science.

Scientists. . 2011.

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