Magnets, Math, and Diagrams: Turning Visual Aids into Navigational Technology

Research Seminar

  • Online event via Zoom
  • Date: Mar 24, 2021
  • Time: 15:00 - 17:00
  • Speaker: Laura Georgescu
  • Contact: boehm@biblhertz.it
Magnets, Math, and Diagrams: Turning Visual Aids into Navigational Technology
Suppose you are in the 1600s and you carefully look at what happens to an iron needle suspended on a fulcrum when a loadstone is moved nearby. The science of magnets is in its infancy: you do not know about fields of force and have little grasp of magnetic phenomena.

As you look closer and play around with the needle and loadstone, you begin to notice that the motion of the needle is not random. Patterns seem to form. But what patterns? How do you detect them? What do they tell you? A first step in answering these questions is learning to visualise these patterns. In the early 1600s, a group of ‘scientists’ made use of diagrams and tables to detect these patterns, and then turned them into technologies for navigation. In this talk, I go into the nitty gritty of how such diagrams were mediators in turning the expert observations of the needle’s motion into what turned out to be a not-so-reliable technology.

Laura Georgescu is a postdoctoral researcher at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen. Her areas of research are early modern philosophy and the sciences, with a particular focus on conceptual dynamics and scientific practices.



For participation via Zoom, please register HERE.

Scientific organization: Christoph Sander


Go to Editor View