A deftly written story of nature's most mysterious force - magnetism - and the spell it cast over three champions of Enlightenment.
At the end of the 17th century, magnetism was a dark, mysterious force, known about since ancient Greece but still misunderstood. Tales abounded of magnets' ability to attract reluctant lovers, but magnetic expertise lay in the hands of seafarers, who had long used compasses to guide their ships.
Fatal Attraction 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 - he wanted to show that science could help England improve her trade and expand her empire. Gowin Knight, a poor clergyman's son, hoped to make a fortune from his inventions; he climbed to fame by developing powerful artificial magnets used in compasses, scientific experiments and popular magic tricks. And although Franz Mesmer claimed that his medical therapy, based on harnessing invisible streams of magnetic fluid, was the revolutionary science of the future, he was ultimately denounced as a quack.
Enlightenment fascination with magnetism was vital for the Victorian electrical revolution that laid the foundations of our modern technological society.
Patricia Fara is a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge and lectures in the University's highly regarded History and Philosophy of Science Department. Her previous books include: An Entertainment for Angels (Icon 2002); Newton (Macmillan, 2002); Sex, Botany and Empire (Icon 2003) and Pandora's Breeches (Pimlico 2004).
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