"instinctively exercising a magnetic power over a spirit so shattered and subdued"
Demonstration of an industrial electromagnet
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDemonstration of an industrial electromagnet - Credit: Deutsche Fotothek‎

Though magnetism as a naturally-occurring property of lodestone had been known since ancient times, the ability of electrical currents to generate magnetic fields was a new discovery in Hawthorne’s age. It was discovered accidentally by Hans Christian Ørsted in 1819 and, despite the enthusiastic experimentation of assorted physicists over the ensuing decade, was still only partially understood. Because of this, magnetism features in many nineteenth century texts as a metaphor for occult, unknowable powers.

Learn how to make a simple electromagnet at home.