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Oct 18, 2017

Magnetic compasses may have been used by the Chinese as early as the first century AD, and natural magnets were known to the Greeks in classical times. Knowledge of the magnetic field has been routinely used in navigation (and measurements have routinely made) since the 18th century, soon after Henry Gellibrand discovered that it changed with time. 

Nowadays, the geomagnetic observatory network is supplemented by measurements from space – in November 2013, ESA launched a constellation of three low-Earth orbiting magnetic satellites. Why? – partly because we still need to monitor the magnetic field and its changes, but also because fundamental questions remain about its origin and the energy sources that maintain it.

Kathy Whaler has been Professor of Geophysics at the University of Edinburgh since 1994. Her main research interests are using permanent geomagnetic observatory and low Earth orbit magnetic satellite data to study the origin and maintenance of the Earth’s magnetic field; the magnetic field of the near-surface rocks of the Earth and other solar system objects that reflects their composition and past history; and using electromagnetic induction to probe the electrical resistivity structure of the crust and upper mantle, particularly as part of multi-disciplinary projects in rifting environments. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and of the American Geophysical Union, a Past President of the Royal Astronomical Society, and was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Price Medal.