Ever wonder where the word “magnet” comes from or what the story is behind it? It’s not as simple as you may think.

The word is originally from the ancient Greek "lithos magnes." The emergence of today’s verbiage of “magnet”, however, is not exactly clear and has been long debated. 

One explanation comes from the legend of a Greek shepherd Magnes, who you can read about in this previous blog post, known for his iron stock. Legend says he first discovered magnetism thanks to his shoes, with nails in them, as they were attracted to the magnetite stones around him. Upon this discovery of lodestone, the Greeks named it “magnetite,” as they were in Magnesia. claim the discovery of magnets happened as far away as India

Whichever one you believe, there’s no debating that magnets have a rich history full of lore and legend. 

Magnets in Their Infancy

The most definitive date of magnets can be traced back to 600 BCE with Lodestone being used by the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus. Then, by the 12th century, the Chinese were using compasses made of Lodestone, which you can read more about here, using this discovery. 

During the 1600s an English Scientist named William Gilbert studied magnetism, which you can read more in detail about here. Specifically, he used Earth as a model in his experiments being the first to claim that the center of the planet was made of iron. He further stated that the Earth itself was a magnet, proving why compasses point north.

Magnets: They’re Electric 

Our modern conception of the relationship between electricity and magnetism originated with Hans Christian Orsted. A professor at the University of Copenhagen in the early 1800s, he actually found this relationship by accident by discovering that an electric current could influence the needle of a compass. Thus, proving the association between the two forces. 

In the 1900s the use and knowledge of magnets were quickly progressing. In 1983 General Motors and Sumitomo Special Metals as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences worked together to develop the first 35 MGOe magnet out of Neodymium, iron, and Boron all of which comprise today’s 52 MGOe magnets. Now, most technology as we know it today is made with rare earth magnets.

Learn More About Modern Day Magnets With Apex Magnets

Magnets date back to centuries before recorded history, and we may never know the true origin. Still, knowing their rich history is important as they are all around us in our day to day lives. After all, magnets are used in our phones, credit cards, refrigerators, microwaves, in the hard drive on your computer, and more. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of where the magnets that are used in the most important pieces of technology come from. To stay up to date on all things magnetism, sign up for our newsletter.