There are many legends that tell us about the discovery of magnets.
One of the most common, is that of an elderly shepherd named Magnets, who was herding his sheep in an area of Northern Greece called Magnesia, about 4,000 years ago. It is said that both the nails in his shoes and the metal tip of his staff became firmly stuck to the large, black rock on which he was standing. This type of rock was later named magnetite, after either Magnesia or Magnets himself.
Stories of magnetism date back to the first century B.C in the writings of Lucretius, and the magical powers of magnetite are mentioned in the writings of Pliny the Elder. For many years following its discovery, magnetite was surrounded in superstition and was considered to possess magical powers, such as the ability to heal the sick, frighten away evil spirits and attract and dissolve ships made of iron! Unlike amber (fossilized tree resin), magnetite was able to attract objects without first being rubbed. This made magnetite far more magical.
People soon realized that magnetite not only attracted objects made of iron, but when made into the shape of a needle and floated on water, magnetite always pointed in a north-south direction creating a primitive compass. This led to an alternative name for magnetite, that of lodestone or "leading stone".
Magnetism is a force that acts between certain objects called magnets. Magnets pick up things like nails and pins. Like poles repel and unlike poles attract.
Magnets work on metals, but only certain metals. Magnets can pull and push only on things made of iron, steel, nickel, or cobalt. Magnets are made of iron ore. All magnets have an invisible area around them called a "magnetic field". Magnets pull and push on things that enter, the magnetic field. When something is placed outside the invisible magnetic field, it looks like the magnet is not working.
Magnets can be so strong that they pass through air, water, and some solid things. Magnets can sometimes push other magnets away. It is easier to see magnets work than to see gravity work. Magnets can be different sizes and shapes. Some are very powerful; some are not.