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William Gilbert's scientific achievement: An assessment of his magnetic, electrical and cosmological researches.

Evers, Ingo Dietrich (1992) William Gilbert's scientific achievement: An assessment of his magnetic, electrical and cosmological researches. MPhil thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

The thesis aims at a more detailed and comprehensive evaluation of Gilbert's magnetic, electrical and cosmological work than has been carried out so far and at correction of important errors in its earlier historical and methodological assessments. The latter concern the general approach to Gilbert, who has, for example, been seen as a 'natural magician', but also specific mistakes such as the widely held view that his conception of magnetic action amounted to an effluvial theory or that he held magnetic forces to be paramount in the universe. Some historians have claimed that Gilbert's most important observations are theory-laden to the detriment of his results. The thesis considers these matters and the theoretical- observational distinction at some length. Gilbert's exploration and wide experimentation concerning magnetic and electric effects, his tests of the work of his predecessors, notably Peregrinus, Norman and Porta, and his experimental investigations of some important phenomena are closely examined as examples of the process of very early science. These matters concern Gilbert's first work, the De Magnete. His cosmological views, although touched on in that book, are set out in more detail in his De Mundo. The wide neglect of this work has led to some of the errors in the appreciation of his cosmology. The thesis examines Gilbert's support of Copernicanism and his views on gravitation and cosmological forces. The overall assessment considers the originality of his experimentation and his theoretical results in comparison to those of his predecessors and problems like the influence of his animism and some claims as to the orgin of his method. The conclusion is that Gilbert took the decisive step in the history of science from occasional experimental investigations of isolated problems by his predecessors to a comprehensive examination of a whole area of physics, magnetism, and the creation of a qualitative theory employing genuine theoretical concepts. His electrical researches offer, similarly, one of the earliest examples of properly scientific work. His discovery of the earth's magnetic field provided a suggestion for the existence of cosmologicl forces and connected terrestrial with extra-terrestrial physics.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Uncontrolled Keywords: History of Science
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/1224

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