William Gilbert was a great physicist, physician and philosopher of his time, and his studies lay the groundwork for modern science as we know it. Today, he is best know for his studies with magnetism which helped scientists of the Renaissance redefine the world around them during the scientific revolution. However, Gilbert did not just concern himself with magnetism and the results of his work had influence throughout the realms of science. He is considered “the father of electrical science” (Thompson 611) and was the first person to propose the idea that the Earth was like a magnet with two poles. Gilbert was an influential figure in England during 16th century, and his legacy still carries over into the science of today.
William Gilbert was born on May 24th, 1544 to a good East Anglican family in Colchester, England. He was admitted at St. John’s College in Cambridge in 1558, and received his Bachelor of Arts in 1561. He continued his pursuit of education at St. John’s and in 1564 received his Master of Arts. He became a Doctor of Medicine in 1569 and after obtaining his M.D., began to work at Cambridge. He held several offices at the University and served as a bursar for a short period of time, before transitioning into the role of a physician.
He moved to London and started a practice in 1570, and soon in 1573, he was admitted into the Royal College of Physicians. Within the college, he became a censor and the treasurer, and by 1599, was the president. His fame as a great doctor grew and in 1601, he became the official physician of the Queen Elizabeth I. He served as her physician until her death in 1603 and his position was renewed by James I. However, he died a short eight months after the queen, probably of the bubonic plague, on November 30th, 1603 in London.
While William Gilbert was a great physician, today, he is more commonly known for his studies in magnetism and electricity. His greatest work was the publication of De Magnete in 1600, a book...