What Causes the Magnetism in Magnets?

By Mark Fitzpatrick
The U-shaped magnet helps attract metal to each of its two poles.
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Magnetism is a force of nature where parallel currents -- positive and negative charges -- are attracted to each other. For example, when a metal, such as iron, is electrically charged, the atoms of the iron will begin to attract to opposite-charged atoms from another object. Magnetism is one of the most common forces in the universe and it can be seen everywhere from an iron bar to the energy of the sun.

Nature of Magnetism

Magnetism attracts opposite-charged atoms and repels similar-charged atoms. The two charges a magnet may have are positive or negative. Both charges become attracted to each other when their magnetic fields meet. A magnetic field is the space where attraction or repulsion occurs between two objects.

Electrical Charge

Magnetism occurs when an object is electrically charged. Ancient people knew that some sort of energy occurred with specific metals, such as iron ore, when lightning would hit the ground. People observed that nearby metal objects would begin to become attracted to the electrified iron ore. Metals such as iron, nickel and cobalt exhibit magnetic charges because of their unique atomic properties.


The magnetism that many people are accustomed to is in the form of a bar or object with two poles: one positive and one negative. These poles are magnetically charged to attract or repel metallic objects to each pole depending on the metal object's magnetic charge. This property is ferromagnetism, where a magnetically charged item exhibits a whole positive or negative charge.

Crafting Magnets

Magnets are manufactured for practical use in the form of a bar with a north -- positive -- and south, or negative, pole. The magnets are created by charging the metal at a ferromagnetic level.

About the Author

Mark Fitzpatrick began writing professionally in 2006. He has written in literary journals such as Read Herrings and provides written online guides for towns ranging from Seymour, Connecticut to Haines, Alaska. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Massachusetts.