Petrus Peregrinus de Maricourt (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Petrus was the author of the first Western scientific treatise on the principles of magnetism. His practical inventions included a floating compass and a pivoted compass, both of which were used for finding the meridian and the azimuths of heavenly bodies.
Very little is known about the life of Petrus Peregrinus de Maricourt (Peter the Pilgrim of Maricourt). What is known comes from two sources: Petrus’ Epistola Petri Peregrini de Maricourt ad Sygerum de Foucaucourt, militem, de magnete (Epistle of Petrus Peregrinus de Maricourt, to Sygerus of Foucaucourt, Soldier, Concerning the Magnet, 1902), completed on August 8, 1269, at Lucera, and references in Roger Bacon’s treatise Opus tertium (c. 1266).
The surname “de Maricourt” indicates that Petrus hailed from Méhaircourt, a village in Picardy (an old province in northern France); whether he was born at Méhaircourt or simply lived there is not known. Given his extensive education, it is clear that he was of noble birth. The appellation “Peregrinus” has been a matter of controversy. As “Peregrinus” was an honorary title given to people who had made pilgrimages to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem or who had participated in a crusade, it was formerly conjectured that Petrus was a Templar Knight or was a member of one of Louis IX’s Crusades in the thirteenth century. It is now recognized...
(The entire section is 2703 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!