Who Invented the Magnetic Compass?

By | November 5, 2018

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A compass, by PHIL CARRICK (Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

For ancient explorers, sailors, and navigators, knowing which way to go was a challenge. The very first sailors used the sun and the stars to help them find their way to their destination and back again but sometimes the sun and the stars aren’t visible. Clouds happen. Many a sea voyage was stymied because of cloudy weather. The magnetic compass changed all that…and it changed the world. But do you know who invented the compass? 

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The Magnetic Compass was a “China’s Gift to the West”

The Chinese were the first to discover that naturally magnetized iron ore, also called lodestone, would, if uninhibited by gravity and friction, orient itself to point north. During China’s Han Dynasty, between 300 and 200 BC, compasses were made but, ironically, they were not used for navigation. They had a much more spiritual use.