Magnets and their Greek origins

Magnetism was first discovered in the ancient world, when people noticed that lodestones, naturally magnetized pieces of the mineral magnetite, could attract iron. In ancient Greece, Aristotle attributed the first of what could be called a scientific discussion of magnetism to the philosopher Thales of Miletus, who lived from about 625 BC to about 545 BC.

According to the Auxiliaries, the formation of the empty space between the magnet and the object that is under its influence is the cause of the small movement of the iron atoms to the magnet in order to fill the gap.

Aristotle, in 384-322 BC, faithful to the principles of the direct connection of the carrier with the moving object, affirmed that the magnet is not naturally capable of attracting iron, but can cause a magnetic attribute to the iron object, which, in its turn, is responsible for the motion.

The ancient Greeks showed great interest in magnetism because, among other things, as it was widely used it in medicine to treat eye pain, burns, arthritis pain, injuries, and various bone and muscle inflammations. Magnets were also used for back pain, fractures, sprains, skin diseases, post-traumatic and postoperative therapies, etc. It is said that Cleopatra, who was also Greek, wore a jewel made of natural magnet on her forehead to relieve headaches and alleviate wrinkles.

The word magnet comes from the Greek term μαγνῆτις λίθος (magnētis lithos), meaning the Magnesian stone, or lodestone. But it actually was a shepherd, named Magnes, who first observed, the effect of magnetism when his shoes’ nails were attracted by the natural magnets where he stepped, giving his name to Magnesia (his hometown) and the magnets.

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