ROMAN SCIENCE—GARLIC AND MAGNETS. I read a review in the TLS (October 12) by David Sedley of a book about Roman science by Daryn Lehoux, and was astonished to see what Sedley calls a “bombshell”. (It was a bombshell for me as well.) Lehoux devotes a lot of time to the fact that the Romans believed that a magnet would lose its ability to attract iron if you rubbed it with garlic. Further, the belief that garlic would make a magnet ineffective continued into the 17th century. This article on HowStuffWorks on William Gilbert says that it was Gilbert who disproved the belief that garlic could destroy magnetic attraction. Gilbert’s book was published in 1600, and much of it was devoted to arguing the importance of experiments. Gilbert himself performed hundreds of them. But I still wonder. How come it took so long to take notice that while garlic can do a lot of things, it doesn’t affect magnets?

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