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Dr Stephen Pumfrey, Department of History, Furness College, Lancaster University, LA1 4YG UK
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The William Gilbert Website Introduction

William Gilbert (1544-1603) is a figure well known to historians of science but not to the general public. He has four claims to fame.

  1. He created the science of magnetism, not least through his discovery that the Earth is a magnet. He also did pioneering work in electricity. For this he is celebrated by the physics community.
  2. He was the first to use a thoroughly experimental method to support his new conclusions. For this he greatly interests historians of science.
  3. He was one of the first supporters of Copernicus, because he believed that the Earth was driven round the sun by its magnetic powers. For this "wrong" conclusion he attracted the condemnation of the Roman Catholic Inquisition, and he has intrigued students of his work.
  4. He was an eminent doctor, and a personal physician to both Queen Elizabeth I and James I. For this he gained wealth and status, but little thanks from Elizabeth, who distrusted doctors.

My name is Stephen Pumfrey, and I have been fascinated by Gilbert since I did research for an undergraduate essay on him in 1977. I am now a leading academic expert on Gilbert and the science of his time, and a lecturer at Lancaster University, U.K.. The aims of The William Gilbert Website are:

  • to stimulate public interest in William Gilbert, his scientific work and his intellectual milieu.
  • to facilitate scholarly research into Gilbert and his milieu, by making available through this site as many relevant resources as possible.
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