William Gilbert was born in Colchester, England, into a middle class family of some wealth. He entered St. John's College, Cambridge, in 1558 and obtained an B.A. in 1561, an M.A. in 1564, and finally an M.D. in 1569.

His primary work was De Magnete, Magneticisque Corporibus, et de Magno Magnete Tellure (On the Magnet and Magnetic eyes, and on That Great Magnet the Earth) published in 1600.  opened the era of modern physics and astronomy and started a century marked by the great achievements of Galileo, Kepler, Newton and others.  "De Magnete" quickly became the standard work throughout Europe on electrical and magnetic phenomena.

In Gilbert's animistic explanation, magnetism was the soul of the Earth and a perfectly spherical lodestone, when aligned with the Earth's poles, would spin on its axis, just as the Earth spins on its axis in 24 hours. (In traditional cosmology the Earth was fixed and it was the sphere of the fixed stars, carrying the other heavens with it, that rotated in 24 hours.) Gilbert did not, however, express an opinion as to whether this rotating Earth was at the center of the universe or in orbit around the Sun.

A unit of magnetomotive force, also known as magnetic potential, was named the gilbert in his honor. Many people regard Gilbert as the father of Electrical Engineering or Father of Electricity.

William Gilbert