William GilbertPhysician / Physicist
Born: 24 May 1544
Died: 30 November 1603 (plague)
Birthplace: Colchester, Essex, England
Best known as: The guy who figured out magnetism and electricity
In 1600 William Gilbert published De Magnete ("On Magnets"), one of the first scientific books in the English language and the first to suggest that the earth was a big magnet. A prominent physician, Gilbert studied magnetism and lodestones for nearly two decades, seeking to explain the behavior of compasses. His book, which also suggested that a vacuum must exist between planets, was a huge success and is considered the first work to discuss the connection between magnetism and electricity. Gilbert was also the royal physician for Queen Elizabeth I and her successor, King James I.
Extra credit: The gilbert, a unit of magnetomotive force, is named after him.
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