Magnetic compass


200 BCE

It was the Ancient Chinese who first discovered the orientating effect of rare ore magnetite and, following this, they put it to use as a crude form of compass in the lodestone. It was more than 1,000 years later before a true navigational compass appeared — again devised in China. The compass was a remarkable milestone in navigation, removing the need for sailors to rely on landmarks and celestial bodies to plot a course and thereby mitigating the uncontrollable factors of overcast weather and darkness. The compass undoubtedly played a huge part in the Golden Age of Exploration during the 16th and 17th centuries.