Fatal Attraction : Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment, Hardback

Fatal Attraction : Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment Hardback

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


At the end of the 17th century, magnetism was a dark, mysterious force, known about since ancient Greece but still poorly understood.

Tales abounded of magnets' ability to attract reluctant lovers, and magnetic expertise lay in the hands of seafarers, who had long used compasses to guide their ships.

This book tells the stories of three men who were lured by nature's strangest power.

Edmond Halley set out to map the Earth's magnetic patterns and improve navigation, showing how science could help England to expand her empire.

Gowin Knight, a poor clergyman's son, climbed to fame and fortune by developing powerful artificial magnets used in compasses, scientific experiments and popular magic tricks. And although Franz Mesmer claimed that his 'animal magnetism', based on harnessing invisible streams of magnetic fluid, was the revolutionary medicine of the future, he was ultimately denounced as a quack.

The move from magnetic mysticism to celebrating scientific rationality is a microcosm of the Enlightenment itself.

In this book the author portrays the colourful protagonists of the magnetic revolution in this tumultuous and turbulent age.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 204 pages, Illustrations, ports.
  • Publisher: Icon Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Popular science
  • ISBN: 9781840466324



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Fara’s book on magnetism and its history ironically does not hold the reader’s attention. The book is filled with self-referential language, urging the reader to go to the next chapter to get more information (although, without her urging, I may not have). One has to keep flipping back and forth to constantly look at the illustrations she describes (better to put them all in the middle of the book). She gets her point across competently, though, relaying the histories of Edmund Halley, Gowin Knight, and Franz Mesmer and the effect their research had on the general populace. An easy read.

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