The Two Kinds Of Magnet

Generally speaking, magnets are of two kinds, namely, permanent and electro-magnetic.

Permanent Magnets

A permanent magnet is a piece of steel in which an electric force is exerted at all times. An electro-magnet is a piece of iron which is magnetized by a winding of wire, and the magnet is energized only while a current of electricity is passing through the wire.


The electro-magnet, therefore, is the more useful, because the pull of the magnet can be controlled by the current which actuates it.

The electro-magnet is the most essential of all contrivances in the operation and use of electricity. It is the piece of mechanism which does the physical work of almost every electrical apparatus or machine. It is the device which has the power to convert the unseen electric current into motion which may be observed by the human eye. Without it electricity would be a useless agent to man.

While the electro-magnet is, therefore, the form of device which is almost wholly used, it is necessary, first, to understand the principles of the permanent magnet.


The curious force exerted by a magnet is called magnetism, but its origin has never been explained. We know its manifestations only, and laws have been formulated to explain its various phases; how to make it more or less intense; how to make its pull more effective; the shape and form of the magnet and the material most useful in its construction.

Fig 5. Plain Magnet BarFig 5. Plain Magnet Bar

Materials For Magnets

Iron and steel are the best materials for magnets. Some metals are non-magnetic, this applying to iron if combined with manganese. Others, like sulphur, zinc, bismuth, antimony, gold, silver and copper, not only are non-magnetic, but they are actually repelled by magnetism. They are called the diamagnetics.

Non-Magnetic Materials

Any non-magnetic body in the path of a magnetic force does not screen or diminish its action, whereas a magnetic substance will

In Fig. 5 we show the simplest form of magnet, merely a bar of steel (A) with the magnetic lines of force passing from end to end. It will be understood that these lines extend out on all sides, and not only along two sides, as shown in the drawing. The object is to explain clearly how the lines run.

Fig. 6. Severed MagnetFig 6. Severed Magnet

Action Of A Severed Magnet

Now, let us suppose that we sever this bar in the middle, as in Fig. 6, or at any other point between the ends. In this case each part becomes a perfect magnet, and a new north pole (N) and a new south pole (S) are made, so that the movement of the magnetic lines of force are still in the same direction in each - that is, the current flows from the north pole to the south pole.