Felix Ehrenhaft: TIME magazine, may,22,1944: Magnetic Current?

It was a startling idea—that magnetism, like electricity, flows in currents and can decompose water (TIME, Jan. 24). U.S. physicists kept politely mum. Their skeptical silence annoyed Dr. Felix Ehrenhaft of Manhattan. Recently, before the American Physical Society at Pittsburgh, he enunciated his theory again.

White-haired Dr. Ehrenhaft commands scientific respect: he was formerly director of the famed Physical Institute of the University of Vienna. He is also a noted heretic. In 1910 he tangled with Caltech's brilliant Robert Andrews Millikan, then a young professor at the University of Chicago, who had just isolated and measured the electron. Ehrenhaft said that he himself had isolated electrical particles of various sizes, many of them smaller than the electron. Millikan demolished Ehren-haft's proofs, won the Nobel Prize.

Now 65, a refugee without an adequate laboratory, Ehrenhaft has again challenged a basic concept. When an electric current passes through acidified water between iron poles, the current decomposes the water and oxygen is formed at the positive pole. It is Ehrenhaft's claim that when the two poles of a horseshoe magnet are substituted for the current, oxygen is present in the gas that rises from the north magnetic pole. Therefore, he reasoned, the water is decomposed and there must be a flow of magnetic current.

The gases from Ehrenhaft's tests were analyzed by Brooklyn's authoritative Foster D. Snell, Inc. Results: about i% of oxygen, slightly more at the north magnetic pole, slightly less at the south, none at all if the iron was not magnetized. This analysis seemed to bear out Ehrenhaft's conclusions.

At Pittsburgh only one physicist outspokenly opposed Ehrenhaft. Dr. Jacob E. Goldman, 23-year-old Westinghouse magnetism researcher, rose to remark that he had repeated Ehrenhaft's experiments, found only bubbles, no magnetic current. His results suited another youngster, 27-year-old James T. Kendall of England's Metropolitan-Vickers laboratory. Dr. Kendall declared in Nature that Ehrenhaft's claims "may turn out to be no more valid than his previous claims of the existence of charges smaller than the electron."

Dr. Ehrenhaft promised to prove his case.

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