The properties of magnets were first noticed in ancient times by Thales of Miletus, a philosopher, possibly the first philosopher in the true ancient Greek tradition. Thales was born around 624 BC and stubbornly refused to accept supernatural or superstitious explanations for the events around him. Many regard him as the Father of Science. A son of noble parents, Thales received a good education and and travelled to Egypt where he applied his mind to using geometry to work out the height of pyramids.
Thales is an a clear case where the term Renaissance man’ is a misnomer, he was an expert philosopher and mathematician as well as engaging in what was surely the first ever case of options trading, yet he was born almost two thousand years before the renaissance. When he bought an option to use all the olive presses in his home town, predicting a particularly good harvest, it was not, we are told, because he was looking to make money, but because he wanted to prove he could make money by using his wits, and not leaving things up to the gods. One of the most famous stories about Thales concerns a battle between the Lydians and the Medes. Part of a war which had continued for five years, the Battle of Halys came to an end with an eclipse of the sun which had been predicted by Thales. The participants were so awed by the event they made peace immediately.
The story of magnetism may begin in ancient Greece, but it doesn’t end there. In the two centuries following Thales magnets became known in ancient India and China, but it was over a thousand years until the Chinese scientists Shen Ko first used a magnetic compass needle for navigation. By 1187 that knowledge was available in Europe and the world changed.
Before the invention of the compass, all long sea journeys had to be at night (when it was possible to navigate by the stars) or during the day, in site of land. The journey from Greece to Egypt was made around the coast of the Mediterranean, a much greater distance than the voyage across. The discovery of the compass paved the way for the great voyages of discovery, amongst them the discovery of America.
In 1600 William Gilbert postulated that it was the magnetic nature of the Earth itself which attracted the compass needle; before that the common belief was that there was a magnetic island at the North Pole, or even that the needle was attracted by the North star itself.
In the 19th century the work of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell began to unravel the mysteries of magnetism and electricity and in the 20th, Nicola Tesla went further than even Edison, using magnets to create alternating current.
But why should this be of any real interest to you?
For years magnets have been viewed as possible treatments for a number of conditions, from sleeplessness to back pain and arthritis and numerous medical studies have been done to investigate their efficacy. Using knowledge built over all those centuries, our Therion magnetic mattress topper pads use modern technology to build powerful magnets into a mattress pad which can soothe you while you sleep.