On the Magnet, by William Gilbert

Chap. xi.


Wrought Iron, not excited by a loadstone, draws iron.

F rom the ore, which is converted, or separated, partly into metal, partly into slag, by the intense heat of fires, iron is smelted in the first furnaces in a space of eight, ten, or twelve hours, and the metal flows away from the dross and useless matter, forming a large and long mass, which being subjected to a sharp hammering is cut into parts, out of which when reheated in the second hearth of the forge, and again placed on the anvil, the smiths fashion quadrangular lumps, or more specially bars which are bought by merchants and blacksmiths, from which in smithies usually it is the custom to fashion the various implements. This iron we term wrought, and its attraction by the loadstone is manifest to all. But we, by more carefully trying everything85, have found out that iron merely, by itself alone, not excited by any loadstone, not charged by any alien forces, attracts other iron; though it does not so eagerly snatch and suddenly pluck at it as would a fairly strong loadstone; this you may know thus: A small piece of cork, the size of a hazel-nut, rounded, is traversed by an iron wire up to the middle of the wire: when set swimming on still water apply to one end of it, close (yet so as not to touch), the end of another iron wire; and wire draws wire, figure and one follows the other when slowly drawn back, and this goes on up to the proper boundaries. Let A be the cork with the iron wire, B one end of it raised a little above the surface of the water, C the end of the second wire, showing the way in which B is drawn by C. You may prove it in another way in a larger body. Let a long bright iron rod (such as is made for hangings and window curtains) be hung in balance by a slender silken cord: to one end of this as it rests in the air bring a small oblong mass of polished iron, with its proper end at the distance of half a digit. The balanced iron turns itself to the mass; do you with the same quickness draw back the mass in your hand in a circular path about the point of equilibrium of the suspension; the end of the balanced iron follows after it, and turns in an orbit.

85 Page 29, line 15. Page 29, line 16. Nos verò diligentiùs omnia experientes.— The method of carefully trying everything, instead of accepting statements on authority, is characteristic of Gilbert's work. The large asterisks affixed to Chapters IX. X. XI. XII. and XIII. of Book I. indicate that Gilbert considered them to announce important original magnetical discoveries. The electrical discoveries of Book II., Chapter II., are similarly distinguished. A rich crop of new magnetical experiments, marked with marginal asterisks, large and small, is to be found in Book II., from Chapter XV. to Chapter XXXIV.; while a third series of experimental magnetical discoveries extends throughout Book III.


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