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Hansteen's magnetometer and the origin of the magnetic crusade

  • VIDAR ENEBAKK (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

In the early nineteenth century, Norwegian mathematician and astronomer Christopher Hansteen (1784–1873) contributed significantly to international collaboration in the study of terrestrial magnetism. In particular, Hansteen was influential in the origin and orientation of the magnetic lobby in Britain, a campaign which resulted in a global network of fixed geomagnetic observatories. In retrospect, however, his contribution was diminished, because his four-pole theory in Untersuchungen der Magnetismus der Erde (1819) was ultimately refuted by Carl Friedrich Gauss in Allgemeine Theorie des Erdmagnetismus (1839). Yet Hansteen's main contribution was practical rather than theoretical. His major impact was related to the circulation of his instruments and techniques. From the mid-1820s, ‘Hansteen's magnetometer’ was distributed all over the British Isles and throughout the international scientific community devoted to studying terrestrial magnetism. Thus in the decades before the magnetic crusade, Hansteen had established an international system of observation, standardization and representation based on measurements with his small and portable magnetometers.

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1 Pedersen Kurt Möller, ‘Hansteen, Christopher’, in Gillispie Charles Coulston (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 6, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972, pp. 106107; Enebakk Vidar and Pettersen Björn Ragnvald, ‘Christopher Hansteen and the Observatory in Christiania’, in Wolfschmidt Gudrun (ed.), Cultural Heritage of Astronomical Observatories: From Classical Astronomy to Modern Astrophysics, Berlin: Bäßler-Verlag, 2009, pp. 260273.

2 Aubin David, Bigg Charlotte and Sibum H. Otto (eds.), The Heavens on Earth: Observatories and Astronomy in Nineteenth-Century Science and Culture, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

3 Hansteen Christopher, Untersuchungen über den Magnetismus der Erde, Erster Teil. Die mechanischen Erscheinungen des Magneten (tr. Peter Treschow Hanson), Christiania: Jacob Lehmann und Chr. Gröndahl, 1819.

4 Hansteen, op. cit. (3), pp. 199, 225, 242. See Horn Werner, ‘Die geschichte der Isarithmenkarten’, in Neef Ernst (ed.), Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen, Gotha: Hermann Haack, 1959, pp. 225232.

5 Hansteen Christopher, Reise-Erinnerungen aus Sibirien, Leipzig: Verlagsbuchhandlung von Carl B. Lorch, 1854; Hansteen Christopher and Due Christian, Resultate magnetischer, astronomischer und meteorologischer Beobachtungen auf einer Reise nach dem östlichen Sibirien in den Jahren 1828–1830, Christiania: Brögger & Christie, 1863; Gauss Carl Friedrich, ‘Allgemeine Theorie des Erdmagnetismus’, in Gauss Carl Friedrich and Weber Wilhelm, Beobachtungen des magnetischen Vereins im Jahre 1838, Leipzig: Verlage der Weidmannschen Buchhandlung, 1839, pp. 157. Quote from Pedersen, op. cit. (1), p. 107.

6 Cawood John, ‘The Magnetic Crusade: science and politics in early Victorian Britain’, Isis (1979) 70, pp. 493518, 506. See also Morrell Jack and Thackray Arnold, Gentlemen of Science: Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981, pp. 353370, 523–529.

7 Cawood, op. cit. (6), p. 578; Morrell and Thackray, op. cit. (6), pp. 524–525.

8 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Lettre de M. Hansten à M. Örsted’, Journal de physique, de chimie et d'histoire naturelle et des arts (1812) 75, pp. 418429; Hansteen , ‘Ueber die vier magnetischen Pole der Erde, Perioden ihrer Bewegung, Magnetismus der Himmelskörper und Nordlichter’, Journal für Chemie und Physik (1813) 7, pp. 7991.

9 Christopher Hansteen to Hans Christian Örsted, 14 December 1821, in Correspondence de H.C. Örsted, ed. Marius Christian Harding, 2 vols., Copenhagen: H. Aschehoug & Co, 1920, vol. 1, pp. 121–122.

10 Jens Jacob Keyser to Christopher Hansteen, 1 November 1819, Hansteen Papers, Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, University of Oslo (subsequently UO).

11 Thomson Thomas, Travels in Sweden, during the Autumn of 1812, London: Robert Baldwin, 1813; Thomson , ‘Magnetism’, Annals of Philosophy (1818) 12, pp. 389390; Thomson , ‘Untersuchungen uber den Magnetismus der Erde’, Annals of Philosophy, new series (1821) 1, pp. 138140.

12 Stamp Tom and Stamp Cordelia, William Scoresby: Arctic Scientist, Whitby: Caedmon of Whitby Press, 1975, p. 64; McConnell Anita, ‘The scientific life of William Scoresby Jnr, with a catalogue of his instruments and apparatus in the Whitby Museum’, Annals of Science (1986) 43, pp. 257286; Bravo Michael Trevor, ‘Geography of exploration and improvement: William Scoresby and Arctic whaling, 1782–1822’, Journal of Historical Geography (2006) 32, pp. 512538.

13 Michael Trevor Bravo, ‘Science and discovery in the Admiralty voyages to the Arctic regions in search of a north-west passage (1815–25)’, PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 1992, pp. 48–49; Levere Trevor Harvey, Science and the Canadian Arctic: A Century of Exploration, 1818–1918, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993; Fulford Tim, Lee Debbie and Kitson Peter J., Literature, Science and Exploration in the Romantic Era: Bodies of Knowledge, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 149175.

14 Morrell and Thackray, op. cit. (6), p. 354.

15 Miller David Philip, ‘The revival of the physical sciences in Britain, 1815–1840’, Osiris, 2nd series (1986) 2, pp. 107134, 118.

16 Bravo, op. cit. (13), p. 52, also p. 122.

17 Hansteen, op. cit. (3), p. xxvi.

18 Joseph Banks to Christopher Hansteen, 14 September 1819, UO.

19 Enebakk Vidar and Johansen Nils Voje, Christopher Hansteens ‘annus mirabilis’. Reisen til London og Paris 1819, Oslo: Forum for University History, University of Oslo, 2011.

20 Christopher Hansteen to Charles Babbage, 21 April 1857, Papers of Charles Babbage, 1791–1971, British Library, London; Christopher Hansteen to Michael Faraday, 30 December 1857, in The Correspondence of Michael Faraday, ed. Frank James, 6 vols., London: The Institution of Engineering and Technology, 1991–2008, vol. 5, pp. 322–324.

21 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Om Antallet og Beliggenheden af Jordens magnetiske Poler’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1823) 1, pp. 146, 18–19.

22 John Barrow to Thomas Young, 14 April 1827, Papers of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Cambridge University Library, RGO 14/44/48.

23 Morrison-Low Alison and Christie John C.C. (eds.), Martyr of science: Sir David Brewster 1781–1868:Proceedings of a Bicentenary Symposium Held at the Royal Scottish Museum on 21 November 1981, Edinburgh: Royal Scottish Museum, 1984.

24 Thomas Carlyle to David Brewster, 18 May 1820, in The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle (ed. Charles Richard Sanders et al.), 38 vols. (ongoing), Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1977–2011, vol. 7, pp. 368–369; Carlyle Thomas, ‘Remarks upon Professor Hansteen's inquiries concerning the magnetism of the Earth’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1820) 3, pp. 124138; Carlyle , ‘Remarks upon Professor Hansteen's inquiries concerning the magnetism of the Earth’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1821) 4, pp. 114124.

25 Brewster David, ‘Account of the expedition to Baffin's Bay, under Captain Ross and Lieutenant Parry’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1819) 1, pp. 150159; Brewster , ‘Notice respecting Hansteen's chart of the variations and the dip of the needle’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1821) 4, pp. 363364, Plate IV; Hansteen, op. cit. (21).

26 Cavendish Henry, ‘An account of the meteorological instruments used at the Royal Society's house’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1776), 66, pp. 375401.

27 As of today, only four exemplars of Hansteen's magnetometer are known to the author; one at the Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology, Oslo; one at the Institute of Astrophysics, University of Oslo; and two at Tromsø Geophysical Observatory, University of Tromsø.

28 McConnell Anita, Geomagnetic Instruments before 1900, London: Harriet Wynter Ltd, 1980, p. 28.

29 Multhauf Robert and Good Gregory, A Brief History of Geomagnetism and a Catalogue of the Collections of the National Museum of American History, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987, p. 15.

30 Good Gregory, ‘Magnetometer’, in Bud Robert and Warner Deborah Jean (eds.), Instruments of Science: An Historical Encyclopedia, New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc., 1998, pp. 368371, 369.

31 Wleugel Peter Johan, ‘Formodning om at Magnetnaalen her i Kiöbenhavn har naaet sit Maximum af vestlig Afvigning’, in Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskabs physiske Skrifter, Copenhagen: Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 1821, pp. 97120; Peter Johan Wleugel to Christopher Hansteen, 1717–1919, UO.

32 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Magnetiske Intensitets-Iagttagelser, anstillede paa forskjellige Reiser i den nordlige Deel af Europa, I’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1824) 4, pp. 269316, 276.

33 Christopher Hansteen to Hans Christian Örsted, 30 June 1834, in Correspondence de H.C. Örsted, op. cit. (9), p. 164.

34 Hansteen, op. cit. (32); Hansteen Christopher, ‘Beobachtungen über die Intensität des Magnetismus im nördlichen Europa, I’, Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1825) 79, pp. 225270, 353–428.

35 Christensen Dan Ch., Naturens tankelæser: En biografi om Hans Christian Örsted, 2 vols., Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanums Forlag, 2009, vol. 2, pp. 646–707.

36 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Magnetiske Intensitets-Iagttagelser, anstillede paa forskjellige Reiser i den nordlige Deel af Europa, II’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1825) 5, pp. 174; Hansteen , ‘Beobachtungen über die Intensität des Magnetismus im nördlichen Europa, II’, Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1825) 80, pp. 309330.

37 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Diurnal variation of the needle’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1821) 4, p. 199; Hansteen , ‘Account of the recent magnetical discoveries of Professor Hansteen’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1821) 4, pp. 295300.

38 David Brewster to Christopher Hansteen, 10 June 1821, UO.

39 Sabine Edward, ‘Observations on the dip and variation of the magnetic needle, and on the intensity of the magnetic force: made during the late voyage in search of a North West Passage’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1819) 109, pp. 132–144; Sabine , ‘An account of experiments to determine the amount of the dip of the magnetic needle in London, in August 1821: with remarks on the instruments which are usually employed in such determinations’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1822) 112, pp. 121; Reingold Nathan, ‘Edward Sabine’, in Gillispie Charles Coulston (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 12, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1975, pp. 4953.

40 Sabine Edward, An Account of Experiments to Determine the Figure of the Earth, London: John Murray, 1825.

41 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Engelsk videnskabelig Expedition i Polarhavet i 1823’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1824) 3, pp. 148151.

42 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Forsög til et Magnetisk Hældningskart, konstruert efter Iagttagelsene paa de seneste Engelske Nordvest-Expeditioner under Captainerne Ross og Parry’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1825) 5, pp. 203212; Hansteen , ‘Versuch einer magnetischen Neigungskarte, gezeichnet nach den Beobachtungen auf den letzten englischen Nordpol-Expeditionen unter Ross und Parry’, Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1825) 80, pp. 277286.

43 Edward Sabine to Christopher Hansteen, 8 August 1825, UO.

44 Christopher Hansteen to Edward Sabine, 25 December 1825, the National Archives, London (subsequently NA), Records of the Meteorological Office, Sir Edward Sabine: Correspondence and papers, BJ 3/3, 50 C.

45 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Capt. Sabines Pendel-Iagttagelser’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1825) 6, pp. 309310.

46 Subsequent quotations from Christopher Hansteen to Edward Sabine, 16 February 1826, NA, BJ 3/3, 51 A–D.

47 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Magnetiske Intensitets-Iagttagelser’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1826) 7, pp. 342343.

48 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Nogle Tillæg til Afhandlingen om Magnetiske Intensitets-Iagttagelser i Magazinets 4de og 5te Bind’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1825) 6, pp. 281301.

49 Edward Sabine, ‘Report on the variations of the magnetic intensity observed at different points of the Earth's surface’, Report of the Seventh Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Held at Liverpool in September 1837, London: John Murray, 1838, pp. 1–85, 12.

50 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Isodynamiske Linier for den hele magnetiske Kraft’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1826) 7, pp. 76111.

51 Christopher Hansteen to Edward Sabine, 16 February 1826, NA, BJ 3/3, 51 D.

52 Sabine, op. cit. (40), p. 495.

53 Christopher Hansteen to Edward Sabine, 13 May 1826, NA, BJ 3/3, 52 A.

54 Edward Sabine to Christopher Hansteen, 3 July 1826, UO.

55 Miller, op. cit. (15), p. 122.

56 Sabine Edward, ‘Experiments to ascertain the ratio of the magnetic forces acting on a needle suspended horizontally, in Paris and in London’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London (1828) 118, pp. 114.

57 Edward Sabine to Christopher Hansteen, 4 July 1827, UO; Hansteen Christopher, ‘Den magnetiske Intensitets Aftagelse paa forskjellige Steder I Europa, bestemt ved forskjellige Iagttagelser af Capt. Edw. Sabine og Professor Chr. Hansteen, meddelt’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1827) 8, pp. 299313.

58 Edward Sabine to Christopher Hansteen, 4 July 1827, UO; Hansteen, op. cit. (57), p. 303.

59 Quetelet Adolphe, ‘Recherches sur l'intensité magnétique de différens lieux de l'Allemagne et des Pay-Bas’, in Nouveaux mémoires de l'Académie royale des sciences et belles-lettres de Bruxelles, vol. 6, Brussels: M. Hayez, 1830, pp. 118; Quetelet , ‘Recherches sur l'intensité magnétique en Suisse et en Italie’, in Nouveaux mémoires, vol. 6, op. cit., pp. 116.

60 Joseph Henry to Lewis Beck, 21 September 1827, in The Papers of Joseph Henry, 5 vols. (ed. Nathan Reingold et al.), Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1972–1988, vol. 1, pp. 196–199; Moyer Albert E., Joseph Henry: The Rise of an American Scientist, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997, pp. 5758; Hansteen Christopher, ‘On the aurora borealis and polar fogs’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1825) 12, pp. 8393, 235–238; Hansteen , ‘On the number and situation of the magnetic poles of the Earth’, Edinburgh Philosophical Journal (1825) 12, pp. 328334.

61 Sabine Edward, ‘Observations on the magnetism of the Earth, especially of the Arctic regions; in a letter from Capt. Edward Sabine, to Professor Renwick’, American Journal of Science and Arts (1830) 17, pp. 145156, 156; Henry, op. cit. (60), vol. 1, pp. 289 ff.; Moyer, op. cit. (60), p. 121.

62 Henry Joseph, ‘On a disturbance of the Earth's magnetism, in connection with the appearance of an aurora borealis, as observed at Albany, April 19, 1831’, American Journal of Science and Arts (1832) 22, pp. 143155.

63 James Renwick Sr to Joseph Henry, 4 August 1833, in Henry, op. cit. (60), vol. 2, p. 87.

64 Bache Alexander Dallas and Courtenay Edward H., ‘On the relative horizontal intensities of terrestrial magnetism at several places in the United States, with the investigation of corrections for temperature, and comparisons of the method of oscillations in full and in rarified air’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (1837) 5, pp. 427457, 430–431.

65 Bache Alexander Dallas, ‘Observations of the magnetic intensity at twenty-one stations in Europe’, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (1841) 7, pp. 75100; Good Gregory, ‘Geomagnetics and scientific institutions in 19th-century America’, Eos: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union (1985) 66, pp. 524526.

66 Philip Parker King to Christopher Hansteen, 6 November and 4 December 1826, UO; King, ‘Magnetiske Intensitets-Iagttagelser langs Sydamerikas Kyster, af Capit. Ph. P. King’, Magazin for Naturvidenskaberne (1827) 8, pp. 106–120.

67 Edward Sabine quoted from King Philip Parker, Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle between the years 1826 and 1836, Describing Their Examination of the Southern Shores of South America, and the Beagle’s Circumnavigation of the Globe. Proceedings of the First Expedition, 1826–30, under the Command of Captain P. Parker King, R.N., F.R.S., London: Henry Colburn, 1839, p. 502.

68 David Brewster to Christopher Hansteen, 7 November 1826, UO.

69 Morrison-Low Alison, ‘The soldier-astronomer in Scotland: Thomas Makdougall Brisbane's scientific work in the northern hemisphere’, Historical Records of Australian Science (2004) 15, pp. 151176.

70 Simon Schaffer, ‘Keeping the books at Parramatta’, in Aubin, Bigg and Sibum, op. cit. (2), pp. 118–147.

71 All quotes from Dunlop James, ‘An account of observations made in Scotland on the distribution of magnetic intensity’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1834) 12, pp. 25.

72 Brisbane quoted from Dunlop, op. cit. (71), pp. 1–2.

73 Rutledge Sharon, ‘For further consideration: Mr James Dunlop, Esq.Journal & Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales (2009) 142, pp. 1728.

74 James Forbes to Christopher Hansteen, 13 March 1832, UO. For details on Brewster's defeat by Forbes in the competition for the natural philosophy chair at the University of Edinburgh in 1836, see Steven Shapin, ‘Brewster and the Edinburgh career in Science’, in Morrison-Low and Christie, op. cit. (23), pp. 17–23.

75 Hansteen Christopher, ‘Ueber die magnetische Intensität der Erde’, Astronomische Nachrichten (1831) 9, pp. 304312.

76 Orange A.D. (Derek), ‘The origins of the British Association for the Advancement of Science’, BJHS (1972) 6, pp. 152176; McLeod Roy and Collins Peter (eds.), The Parliament of Science: The British Association for the Advancement of Science 1831–1981, Northwood: Science Reviews, 1981; Morrell and Thackray, op. cit. (6).

77 First Report of the Proceedings, Recommendations, and Transactions of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, York: Thomas Wilson and Sons, 1832, p. vi, also pp. 51–52.

78 Scoresby William, ‘Description of a magnetimeter, being a new instrument for measuring magnetic attractions, and finding the dip of the needle; with an account of experiments made with it’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1823) 9, pp. 243258; Traill Thomas Stewart, ‘Experiments on the intensity of terrestrial magnetism, at Liverpool and Manchester, with Hansteen's needles’, Report of the Second Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Held at Oxford in 1832, London: John Murray, 1832, p. 557; see Morrell and Thackray, op. cit. (6), p. 525.

79 Forbes James D., ‘Account of some experiments made in different parts of Europe, on terrestrial magnetic intensity, particularly with reference to the effect of heights’, Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1840) 14, pp. 129, 2.

80 Cawood, op. cit. (6), p. 493.

81 Cawood, op. cit. (6), p. 500–503.

82 Edward Sabine, ‘On the phænomena of terrestrial magnetism: being an abstract of the Magnetismus der Erde of Professor Ch. Hansteen’, Report of the Fifth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Held at Dublin in August 1835, London: John Murray, 1836, pp. 61–90. See Morrell and Thackray, op. cit. (6), pp. 354–355.

83 Lloyd Humphrey, Sabine Edward and Ross James Clarke, ‘Observations on the direction and intensity of the terrestrial magnetic force in Ireland’, Report of the Fifth Meeting, op. cit. (82), pp. 117162, 117.

84 Edward Sabine, ‘Observations on the direction and intensity of the terrestrial magnetic force in Scotland’, Report of the Sixth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Held at Bristol in August 1836, London: John Murray, 1837, pp. 97–119, 110.

85 Edward Sabine, ‘A memoir on the magnetic isoclinal and isodynamic lines in the British Islands, from observations by Professors Humphrey Lloyd and John Phillips, Robert Were Fox, Esq., Captain James Clark Ross, R.N. , and Major Edward SabineR.A.’, Report of the Eight Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Held at Newcastle in September 1838, London: John Murray, 1839, pp. 49–196, 148.

86 Cannon Susan Faye, Science in Culture: The Early Victorian period, New York: Dawson and Science History Publications, 1978, p. 81; Morrell and Thackray, op. cit. (6), pp. 354, 524.

87 von Humboldt Alexander, ‘Ueber die Mittel, die Ergründung einiger Phänomene des tellurischen Magnetismus zu erleichtern’, Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1829), 15, pp. 319336.

88 von Humboldt Alexander, ‘Beobachtungen der Intensität magnetischer Kräfte und der magnetischen Neigung, angestellt in den Jahren 1798 bis 1803’, Annalen der Physik und Chemie (1829), 15, pp. 336355; see Hansteen, op. cit. (3), pp. 67–73.

89 Honigmann Peter, ‘Über Alexander von Humboldts geophysicalische Instrumente auf seiner russisch-sibirischen Reise’, Gerlands Beiträge zur Geophysik (1982) 91, pp. 185199.

90 von Humboldt Alexander, ‘On the advancement of the knowledge of terrestrial magnetism, by the establishment of magnetic stations and corresponding observations’, London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine (1836) 9, pp. 4253, 48.

The author would like to thank John Peter Collett, Simon Schaffer and Sven Widmalm for encouragement and constructive comments.

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