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Keywords:

  • geomagnetism;
  • Gilbert

Dozens of scientific textbooks [e.g., Spaldin, 2011, p. v; Krijgsman and Langereis, 2009, p. 252; Prölls, 2004, p. 211; Merrill et al., 1996, p. 7; Livingston, 1996, p. 27; Blakely, 1996, pp. xiv, 154; Gillmor, 1990, p. 9] attribute the famous dictum magnus magnes ipse est globus terrestris (“the terrestrial globe is itself a big magnet”) to the English physician and scientist William Gilbert (1544–1603). It is repeatedly claimed that these words were contained in the title of Gilbert's book or one of his chapters [e.g., Carlowicz and Lopez, 2002, n.p.; Courtillot, 2002, pp. 26, 49; Lang and Whitney, 1991, p. 120]. Certainly, they convey the thrust of Gilbert's De Magnete, in which it was argued for the first time that the Earth sustains its own magnetic dipole field, on the basis of experimentation on magnets.