Biomagnetism is the phenomenon of magnetic fields produced by the human body, and other living entities. It is to be distinguished from magnetic fields applied to the body, properly called magnetobiology. These are exact, scientific definitions. But the word biomagnetism has been loosely used to also include magnetobiology, that is, to encompass almost any combination of the words magnetism and biology. Biomagnetism is also to be distinguished from bioelectromagnetism, which involves electric fields as well.

The origin of the word biomagnetism is unclear, but seems to have appeared several hundred years ago, linked to the expression animal magnetism. The present scientific definition took form in the 1970’s, when an increasing number of researchers began to measure the magnetic fields produced by the human body. The first valid measurement was actually made in 1963, but the field began to expand only after a low-noise technique was developed in 1970. Today the community of biomagnetic researchers does not have a formal organization, but international conferences are held every two years, with about 600 attendees. Most conference activity centers around the MEG (magnetoencephalogram), the measurement of the magnetic field of the brain.


Further reading

  • Williamson SH, Romani GL, Kaufman L, Modena I, editors. Biomagnetism: An Interdisciplinary Approach. 1983. NATO ASI series. New York: Plenum Press.
  • Cohen, D. Boston and the history of biomagnetism. Neurology and Clinical Neurophysiology 2004; 30: 1.

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