The compass played an extremely important role in the development of navigation. Not a single ship that set off on a long voyage could do without this device. Invented many centuries ago, the compass still regularly serves not only sailors, but also land travelers, not intending to give up their positions under the onslaught of more modern means of navigation.
The compass is humanity's greatest invention
The creation of the compass and its widespread adoption gave impetus not only to geographical discoveries, but also made it possible to better understand the relationship between electric and magnetic fields. After the beginning of the use of the compass, new branches of scientific knowledge began to appear.
A compass with a magnetic needle opened to mankind not only the globe, but also the physical world in all its diversity.
The primacy in the discovery of the properties of the compass is contested by several nations: Indians, Arabs and Chinese, Italians, and British. Today it is very difficult to reliably determine who the honor of the invention of the compass belongs. Many conclusions are made only on the assumptions put forward by historians, archaeologists and physicists. Unfortunately, many of the evidence and documents that could shed light on this issue have not survived or have survived to this day in a distorted form.
Where did the compass first appear?
One of the most widespread versions says that the compass was invented in China about five thousand years ago ("From astrolabe to navigation complexes", V. Koryakin, A. Khrebtov, 1994). Chunks of ore, which had the wonderful property of attracting small metal objects to themselves, were called by the Chinese "a loving stone" or "a stone of mother's love." The people of China were the first to notice the properties of the magic stone. If it was shaped like an oblong object and hung on a thread, it would occupy a certain position, pointing one end to the south and the other to the north.
It was surprising that the “arrow”, which was deflected from its position, returned to its original position after hesitation. Chinese chronicles contain indications that this property of a magnetic stone was used by travelers to determine the correct position when moving through the deserts, when the daylight and stars were not visible in the sky.
The first Chinese compass was used when caravans moved through the Gobi Desert.
Much later, the magnet began to be used for orientation in navigation. According to Chinese sources, around the 5th-4th centuries BC, sailors began to use a metal needle rubbed with a magnetic stone and suspended from a silk thread. It is surprising that at that time the compass did not reach India and Europe, because then between China and these regions, sea communication was already being established. But the Greek writers of those times did not mention the compass.
It is believed that the compass came to Europe not earlier than the 3rd century BC through Arab sailors who plowed the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. But some researchers do not exclude that this useful device was re-invented by Europeans, who independently discovered the effect produced by a magnetic arrow suspended on a thin thread.