Mechanics / Electrodynamics
December 5, 2011
By the eighteenth century, the separation of electricity and magnetism was so complete that these two sciences advanced along different paths. Here we will consider only magnetism in the eighteenth century. The century opens with the paradox or conundrum of magnetism at the forefront. This science had not progressed much since the brilliant work of Gilbert had set it upon a new path. The paradox is clearly expressed in the views of Sir Isaac Newton, who we will consider first as the representative for the difficulties and problems associated with magnetic science1. Magnetic theory was not in crisis, it was merely languishing in neglect and frustration. The great minds of the age were unable to solve its riddle. This situation continued until the end of the century when Coulomb placed magnetism upon a different path that stimulated the development of mathematical models based on the Newtonian theory at the beginning of the nineteenth century.