Experimenter's box, c 1800.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
During the 19th century magnetism was a popular subject, and this box contains many of the objects used to experiment with magnetism. The first person to fully describe the various effects of magnetism was Dr William Gilbert (1544-1603) in his book 'De Magnete'. He also tried to explain the attraction of the planets to the Sun in terms of magnetism. Natural magnets, or lodestones, of magnetite, a magnetic iron oxide, have been known for many centuries, but the first artificial magnets were not introduced until 1750.