On the Magnet, by William Gilbert

Chap. xxiiii.

A piece of Iron placed within the Orbe of a Loadstone hangs suspended in the air, if on account of some impediment it cannot approach it.

W ithin the magnetick orbe a piece of iron moves towards the more powerful points of the stone, if it be not hindered by force or by the material of a body placed between them; either it falls down from above, or tends sideways or obliquely, or flies up above. But if the iron cannot reach the stone on account of some obstacle, it cleaves to it and remains there, but with a less firm and constant connection, since at greater intervals or distances the alliance is less amicable. Fracastorio, in the eighth chapter of his De Sympathia, says that a piece of iron is suspended in the air, so that it can be moved neither up nor down, if a loadstone be placed above which is able to draw the iron up just as much as the iron itself inclines downwards with equal force; for thus the iron would be supported in the air: which thing is absurd; because the force of a magnet is always the stronger the nearer it is. So that when a piece of iron is raised a very little from the earth by the force of the magnet, it needs must be drawn steadily on towards the magnet (if nothing else come in the way) and cleave to it. Baptista Porta suspends a piece of iron in the air178 (a magnet being fixed above), and, by no very subtile process, the iron is detained by a slender thread from its lower part, so that it cannot rise up to the stone. The iron is raised upright by the magnet, although the magnet does not * touch the iron, but because it is in its vicinity; but when the whole iron on account of its greater nearness is moved by that which erected it, immediately it hurries with a swift motion to the magnet and cleaves to it. For by approaching the iron is more and more excited, and the coition grows stronger.

178 Page 92, line 3. Page 92, line 4. Suspendit in aëre ferrum Baptista Porta.— Porta's experiment is thus described (Natural Magick, London, 1658, p. 204): "Petrus Pellegrinus saith, he shewed in another work how that might be done: but that work is not to be found. Why I think it extream hard, I shall say afterwards. But I say it may be done, because I have now done it, to hold it fast by an invisible band, to hang in the air; onely so, that it be bound with a small thread beneath, that it may not rise higher: and then striving to catch hold of the stone above, it will hang in the air, and tremble and wag itself."


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