Trinity Street, Colchester was the family home of one of the most influential early modern scientists. William Gilberd (Gilbert) was born here, at Tymperleys, in 1544 and was buried in the church of Holy Trinity in 1603. In 1600 he completed De Magnete, the result of his researches and experiments to understand magnetism, and the first true scientific book to be published in England.
Gilberd was a key member of the group of European scientists who challenged misconceptions on the nature of the Universe. He followed Copernicus' belief that the Earth and planets orbited the Sun, concluding that they were held by an invisible magnetic force. This conclusion was integral to the system of planetary motion developed by Kepler, and significantly influenced Galileo, who stated of Gilberd that "I extremely praise, admire, and envy this author".
Gilberd discovered that a magnet cut across its length produced two smaller magnets rather than separate north and south poles, and wondered how far this division could be taken. In 1931, Dirac theorised the existence of a magnetic "monopole", and the MoEDAL detector at CERN is currently searching for these elementary packets of magnetic energy.
Over four Heritage Open Days, visitors were encouraged to explore Trinity Street, reading about William Gilberd and the science of magnetism at several historic buildings. Recreations of some of his experiments inspired children to consider studying science further - part of Gilberd's lasting legacy.