The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory notes that the discovery of a substance with magnetic properties is not attributed to one person. Ancient Greeks first mentioned that lodestone had magnetic properties around 600 BC. Thales of Miletus, a philosopher, noted that lodestone, also known as magnetite, attracts iron.
The first practical use of magnetic properties is attributed to the Chinese around the fourth century BC. The Chinese created the first compass, a board with a lodestone shaped like a ladle that pointed due south. Rather than using the compass for navigation, the compass was used as a fortune-telling divining tool. The first recorded use of the compass in navigation was by the Chinese in 1086.