Biography of William Gilbert


Gilbert, William (1540-1603), an eminent English physicist and physician to Queen Elizabeth. Though by profession a physician his fame rests upon his treatise, The Magnet, published in 1600, in which is given the results of eighteen years' experimentation at such odd times as he could spare. From the time of Thales, 23 centuries before, scarcely anything had been added to the little then known of electricity - the bare fact that amber when rubbed would attract light bodies - till Gilbert made known much about static electricity; while in the field of magnetism he discovered many facts on the subject. He pronounced the theory that the earth as a whole is a magnet, and explained peculiarities in the compass' behavior. He recognized the magnetic field, the effects of heat on a magnet, and the principle of induction.