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What is the history of magnets?

The ancient Greeks and Chinese discovered that certain rare stones called lodestones were naturally magnetized. These stones could attract small pieces of iron in a seemingly magical way, and always pointed in the same direction when swinging freely, suspended from a string, or floating on water. Early sailors used these magnets as rudimentary compasses to determine their direction at sea.

The word "magnet" comes from Magnesia, a district in Thessaly, Greece, where it is believed the first lodestone was mined.

Over the years magnets have evolved into the high strength materials we have today. It was discovered that by creating alloys of different materials, you can achieve effects similar to those found in natural stones and increase magnetism.

However, it was not until the 18th century that the first artificial magnets were created. Progress in the production of stronger magnetic alloys was very slow until the 1920s, when alnico magnetic materials (an alloy of nickel, aluminium and cobalt) were formulated. Ferrite magnets were developed in the 1950s and rare earth magnets in the 1970s. Since then, the science of magnetism has grown exponentially, and extremely strong magnetic materials have made miniature and powerful devices possible.