On the Magnet, by William Gilbert

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Book Second.

Chap. i.

On Magnetick Motions.

D ivers things concerning opinions about the magnet-stone, and its variety, concerning its poles and its known faculties, concerning iron, concerning the properties of iron, concerning a magnetick substance common to both of these and to the earth itself, have been spoken briefly by us in the former book. There remain the magnetical motions, and their fuller philosophy, shown and demonstrated. These motions are incitements of homogeneal parts either among themselves or toward the primary conformation of the whole earth. Aristotle admits only two simple motions of his elements, from the centre and toward the centre; of light ones upward, heavy ones downward; so that in the earth there exists one motion only of all its parts towards the centre of the world — a rude and inert precipitation. But what of it is light, and how wrongly it is inferred by the Peripateticks from the simple motion of the elements, and also what is its heavy part, we will discuss elsewhere. But now our inquiry must be into the causes of other motions, depending on its true form, which we have plainly seen in our magnetick bodies; and these we have seen to be present in the earth and in all its homogenic parts also. We have noticed that they harmonize with the earth, and are bound up with its forces. Five movements106 or differences of motions are then observed by us: Coition (commonly called attraction), the incitement to magnetick union; Direction towards the poles of the earth, and the verticity and continuance of the earth towards the determinate poles of the world; Variation, a deflexion from the meridian, which we call a perverted movement; Declination, a descent of the magnetick pole below the horizon; and circular motion, or Revolution. Concerning all these we shall discuss separately, and how they all proceed from a nature tending to aggregation, either by verticity or by volubility. Jofrancus Offusius107 makes out different magnetick motions; a first toward a centre; a second toward a pole at seventy-seven degrees; a third toward iron; a fourth toward loadstone. The first is not always to a centre, but exists only at the poles in a straight course toward the centre, if the motion is magnetick; otherwise it is only motion of matter toward its own mass and toward the globe. The second toward a pole at seventy-seven degrees is no motion, but is direction with respect to the pole of the earth, or variation. The third and fourth are magnetick and are the same. So he truly recognizes no magnetick motion except the Coition toward iron or loadstone, commonly called attraction. There is another motion in the whole earth, which does not exist towards the terrella or towards its parts; videlicet, a motion of aggregation, and that movement of matter, which is called by philosophers a right motion, of which elsewhere.

106 Page 45, line 25. Page 45, line 26. Motus igitur . . . quinque. The five kinds of magnetic motions correspond in fact to the remaining sections of the book; as follows: Coitio, Book II.; Directio, Book III.; Variatio, Book IV.; Declinatio, Book V.; and Revolutio, Book VI.

107 Page 46, line 7. Page 46, line 8. Jofrancus Offusius.— The reference is to the treatise De divina astrorum faculitate of Johannes Franciscus Offusius (Paris, 1570).

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17