The First Scientist

History and Science. Two of my favorite topics combined telling a tale of William Gilbert of Colchester the master of magnetism using a revolutionary new way of discovering truth: the scientific method.


I was prompted to post this partly in response to the posting yesterday by Thecuriousastronomer about Galileo.


William Gilbert of Colchester deserves pride of place in any account of the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century, because he was the first person to set out clearly in print the essence of the scientific method – the testing of hypotheses by rigorous experiments – and to put that method into action.  He did so to such effect that his discoveries in the field of magnetism were unsurpassed for two centuries; and by a happy calendrical coincidence, his great book on magnetism was published at the dawn of the new century, in 1600.
     To put Gilbert’s life and work in an historical perspective, in 1600 Elizabeth I was nearing the end of her long reign.  The Spanish Armada had been defeated just twelve years earlier, and although the first attempt…

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