The Definition and History of Electromagnetism
Electromagnetism is a fundamental force in nature that establishes the internal properties of all things on Earth. It is a phenomenon that is manifested in the interrelationship between electricity and magnetism, and the interaction of electrons and photons at the atomic and molecular level. The theory confirms that one can be produced by the other and also explains the nature of light.
Electromagnetism is a relatively modern concept. Prior to the 19th century, scientists believed that magnetism and electricity were distinct forces. It was not until scientists from Denmark (Hans Christian Ørsted), France (André-Marie Ampère) and England (Michael Faraday) worked out the dynamics that inextricably linked electricity and magnetism that the idea it was a single force piqued scientific interest. This was formally synthesized in 1865 into the electromagnetic theory by Scottish mathematician and physicist James Clark Maxwell, who had been tasked to transcribe Faraday’s experiments in electricity and magnetism into mathematical terms.
In his set of equations, Maxwell demonstrated that electricity and magnetism traveled in distinct waves through space, and that light itself is the result of the undulations of the electromagnetic waves which travelled at the same velocity as light. Together, electricity, magnetism, and light comprise the electromagnetic field.
However, Maxwell’s publication only became accepted outside of England when Heinrich Hertz, a German physicist, verified his equations in 1886. To add insult to injury, it was only in 1905 when the Theory of Relativity proposed by Albert Einstein that it cemented the notion that electricity and magnetism were two sides of the same coin, although they are by no means the same force.
The significance of the electromagnetic theory is that it became the basis for many of the theories in advanced physics, including quantum mechanics, which speculates on the properties of nano particles in relation to the physical world. Because these particles are so small, they can only be detected by how it affects the electromagnetic field.