March 1944 Radio-Craft
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Craft,
published 1929 - 1953. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
The March 1944 issue of Radio-Craft
magazine published an article entitled, "Magnetic Current -
Discovery of the Age?," which reported on Austrian physicist Dr. Felix
Ehrenhaft's announcement that he had discovered "magnetic charges," aka magnetic
monopoles. The breathtaking news set the physics world astir as believers and non-believers
quickly sought to prove or disprove, respectively, his claim. A maxim in science
is that the most effective way to validate a theory or claim of discovery is to
try, but fail, to invalidate it. We have seen time and again, even to this day,
where all attempts to show Einstein's Theory of General Relativity to be wrong have
ultimately only further qualified it. Radio-Craft publisher Hugo Gernsback
was one of the first to glom on to the magnetic current phenomenon and exposited
gloriously about it in the same month's editorial column. Mr. Gernsback was
a genius in many ways and a supreme visionary of physical and electronic sciences,
but he did manage to miss the mark a few times, and this appears to be one of those
The Big News - Pure Magnetic Current
By Hugo Gernsback
.... An astonishing and breathtaking discovery - Pure Magnetic Current
- has been made. Where will it take Radio and Electronics? ....
In the midst of the greatest war in history, the biggest scientific news of the
day is the announcement made last month of the discovery of Pure Magnetic Currents.
Nothing anywhere nearly as exciting has happened since Heinrich Hertz in 1887 demonstrated
electromagnetic waves in free space - the forerunner of wireless and radio today.
According to The New York Times, the new discovery may be ranked with the principle
of the dynamo by Michael Faraday 113 years ago.
The epoch-making discovery is the result of researches made over a span of several
years by Professor Felix Ehrenhaft, the well-known Viennese physicist, now a refugee
in this country.
Electrically-charged gas bubbles in a liquid between the poles
of a magnet, move in a way similar to magnetic "lines of force." World-Wide Photos
While the inter-relation between electricity and magnetism has been recognized
since the days of Oersted, magnetism was always considered as static. We could conduct
electricity for miles and miles over wires, and even through space by means of radio
waves, but when it came to magnetism, we could not make it flow, as, electricity
flows. Indeed, the most powerful magnet in the world could not do much useful work
over a distance of one foot of free space. We knew, of course, that the electrical
current would set up a magnetic field around (outside) the wire over all of its
length, but here again the magnetic field is stationary and it does not, flow along
the wire from one point to another. Now Professor Ehrenhaft has demonstrated to
the satisfaction of many scientists that there also exists a free pure magnetic
current similar to the electric current. That is the big news of 1944.
For over 700 years most of our magnetic thinking traveled along a single well-worn
groove. It was Peregrinus who at that period stated, "Magnetism has direction,
but no motion. Only electricity can move." In other words, you can take an ordinary
compass needle, oil it a bit and place it on the surface of water. The magnetic
needle will turn till it comes into a north-south direction. Then its motion stops.
The needle will not move or travel to the north or to the south. Scientists agreed
with this view, but nothing much further was done about magnetism until Ehrenhaft
made his noteworthy experiments, upsetting our entire conception of electromagnetism
and all that goes with it.
Ehrenhaft now says, "Electricity and magnetism represent an indivisible pair.
It can be said that the unification of the field theory has been indicated here
in an experimental way, and electricity and magnetism may have to be expressed in
the future by one symbol only."
He discovered that electricity and magnetism are the selfsame force in every
respect and not two different forces, which text books have always taught us.
Now we find, as has been discovered by a bright young child, if it takes off
its left woolen mitten and turns it inside out, that it will fit the right hand,
too - an astonishing discovery, no doubt, to the child.
But Professor Ehrenhaft went much further. He cites four new principles, to wit:
1. Sensitive experiments show that in a geo-magnetic field, small particles of
ferro-magnetic substances move as simple magnetic poles in opposite directions.
If sufficiently small, they become magnetic ions. These ions can be generated by
applying friction, by chemical means, or by light, just as electric ions can be
2. If two ends of a piece of pure soft iron are immersed in aciduated water,
hydrogen is evolved. Now magnetize the same piece of iron north and south and a
mixture of hydrogen and oxygen is evolved from the poles.
3. Circulation of positively or negatively charged gas bubbles and solid bodies
in opposite directions in the same plane around the constant magnetic field-reversing
their direction of circulation with the reversal of the magnetic field - in the
same manner as a single north or south pole would circulate around the electric
4. In a solution of copper sulphate, colloidal particles of copper move upwards
or downwards in a spiral path, in a constant magnetic field, ending their motion
on the magnet's pole faces. Microscopic small particles of chromium, manganese,
nickel or iron move upwards or downwards in spirals or parts of spirals in gas of
atmospheric pressure around the constant vertical magnetic field. This proves that
the particles carry simultaneous electric and magnetic charges.
More recently Ehrenhaft succeeded in decomposing water with a permanent magnet,
just as in the classic experiment of the year 1800, scientists decomposed water
with the electric current.
This to my mind, is sufficient and final proof of Ehrenhaft's discovery, but
we may be sure that further proofs will come along in quick succession from now
Of what use will be this new discovery of pure magnetic currents? There comes
to mind the old story of Faraday when he showed a lady visitor his crude experiment
where a suspended copper wire, dipping into a circular doughnut-like vessel, filled
with mercury, was rotating around a bar magnet. This was incidentally, the first
demonstration of the electromagnetic motor. The lady watched it attentively, then
asked, ."But what good is all this?" To which Faraday replied: "What good is a new
born child?" Similarly when Heinrich Hertz first demonstrated his electric waves
in free space, no one could see anything remarkable about it. Not until Marconi
came along, and using the selfsame means, brought about wireless telegraphy on which
radio has been built today. So it is with the new Magnetic Current. What will it
do? Where will it take us in the future? No one today - not even the most versatile
inventor or scientist - can even dimly foresee the future of the great new discovery.
One thing, however, is certain; and, that is, it will be tremendous and breathtaking.
Transparent pointers may be removed and an apron of material matching or contrasting
in color may be replaced. Thus similar-colored knobs can be fitted up with contrasting-color
aprons according to their function on the panel or otherwise. The older metal pointers
are also provided where needed for use on equipment where such style is indicated,
the mode of construction facilitating such variation in style.
Within fifty years, every present electrical notion, every electrical appliance
and apparatus will be profoundly affected. Here are a few thoughts which I give
Who will invent the first Magnetic Battery - a device through which magnetic
currents will flow in sizable currents or streams?
Who will invent the first Magnetic Amplifier?
Who will be responsible for the first Magnetic-Vacuum Tube - a parallel to our
present electric vacuum tube? This tube will probably emit not electrons as we now
visualize them, but magnetic ions.
Who will build the first Magnetic Generator?
The list can be lengthened indefinitely, and what the results will be of all
this, is anyone's guess.
In the next few generations our present concepts of radio and all that goes with
it, will have changed completely - so completely, in fact, that we won't recognize
our present means which probably will have gone into the discard.
The new child - Magnetic Current - has been born. Now watch it grow into a lusty
and magic giant.
Posted January 1, 2021