Fatal Attraction: Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment

At the end of the 17th century, magnetism was a dark, mysterious force, known about since ancient Greece but still poorly understood. Tales abounded of magnets' ability to attract reluctant lovers, and magnetic expertise lay in the hands of seafarers, who had long used compasses to guide their ships. This book tells the stories of three men who were lured by nature's strangest power. Edmond Halley set out to map the Earth's magnetic patterns and improve navigation, showing how science could help England to expand her empire. Gowin Knight, a poor clergyman's son, climbed to fame and fortune by developing powerful artificial magnets used in compasses, scientific experiments and popular magic tricks. And although Franz Mesmer claimed that his 'animal magnetism', based on harnessing invisible streams of magnetic fluid, was the revolutionary medicine of the future, he was ultimately denounced as a quack. The move from magnetic mysticism to celebrating scientific rationality is a microcosm of the Enlightenment itself. In this book the author portrays the colourful protagonists of the magnetic revolution in this tumultuous and turbulent age.