On the Magnet, by William Gilbert

Chap. x. Iron ore has poles, and acquires them, and settles itself toward the poles of the universe.

D eplorable is man’s ignorance in natural science, and modern philosophers, like those who dream in darkness, need to be aroused, and taught the uses of things and how to deal with them, and to be induced to leave the learning sought at leisure from books alone, and that is supported only by unrealities of arguments and by conjectures. For the knowledge of iron (than which nothing is in more common use), and that of many more substances around us, remains unlearned; iron, a rich ore of which, placed in a vessel upon water, by an innate property of its own directs itself, just like the loadstone, North and South, at which points it rests, and to which, if it be turned aside, it reverts by its own inherent vigour. But many ores, less perfect in their nature, which yet contain amid stone or earthy substances plenty of iron, have no such motion; but when prepared by skilful treatment in the fires, as shown in the foregoing chapter, they acquire a polar vigour (which we call verticity84); and not only the iron ores in request by miners, but even earth merely charged with ferruginous matter, and many rocks, do in like manner tend and lean toward those portions of the heavens, or more truly of the earth, if they be skilfully placed, until they reach the desired location, in which they eagerly repose.

84 Page 28, line 23. Page 28, line 20. quem nos verticitatem dicimus.— See the notes on Gilbert’s glossary, ante. The word verticity remained in the language. On p. 140 of Joseph Glanvill’s Vanity of Dogmatizing (Lond., 1661) we read: “We believe the verticity of the Needle, without a Certificate from the dayes of old.”


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