Natural Science Stories, Leo Tolstoy
Natural Science Stories
Leo Tolstoy
1:12 h Children Lvl 3.52
Leo Tolstoy was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828,Tolstoy's notable works include the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1878), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. Tolstoy founded 13 schools for the children of Russia's peasants, who had just been emancipated from serfdom in 1861. The school at Yasnaya Polyana can justifiably be claimed the first example of a coherent theory of democratic education. Natural Science Stories is a 1902 collection of stories explaining various phenomena from physics, botany and zoology.

Natural Science Stories

Leo Tolstoy

Translated from the Original Russian and Edited by
Leo Wiener

Tolstoy by Repin 1901

Stories from Physics

The Magnet


In olden days there was a shepherd whose name was Magnes. Magnes lost a sheep. He went to the mountains to find it. He came to a place where there were barren rocks. He walked over these rocks, and felt that his boots were sticking to them. He touched them with his hand, but they were dry and did not stick to his hand. He started to walk again, and again his boots stuck to the rocks. He sat down, took off one of his boots, took it into his hand, and touched the rocks with it.

Whenever he touched them with his skin, or with the sole of his boot, they did not stick; but when he touched them with the nails, they did stick.

Magnes had a cane with an iron point.

He touched a rock with the wood; it did not stick; he touched it with the iron end, and it stuck so that he could not pull it off.

Magnes looked at the stone, and he saw that it looked like iron, and he took pieces of that stone home with him. Since then that rock has been known, and has been called Magnet.


Magnet is found in the earth with iron ore. Where there is magnet in the ore, the iron is of the best quality. The magnet resembles iron.

If you put a piece of iron on a magnet, the iron itself begins to attract other iron. And if you put a steel needle on a magnet, and hold it thus for awhile, the needle will become a magnet, and will attract iron. If two magnets are brought together at their ends, one side will turn away from the other, while the other sides will be attracted.

If a magnetic rod is broken in two, each half will attract at one end, and will turn away at the other end. Cut it again, and the same will happen; cut it again, as often as you please, and still the same will happen: equal ends will turn away from each other, while opposite ends will be attracted, as though the magnet were pushing away at one end, and pulling in at the other. No matter how you may break it, it will be as though there were a bump at one end, and a saucer at the other. Whichever way you put them together, — a bump and a saucer will meet, but a bump and a bump, or a saucer and a saucer will not.


If you magnetize a needle (holding it for awhile over a magnet), and attach it in the middle to a pivot in such a way that it can move freely around, and let it loose, it will turn with one end toward midday (south), and with the other toward midnight (north).

When the magnet was not known, people did not sail far out to sea. When they went out far into the sea, so that land was not to be seen, they could tell only by the stars and the sun where they had to sail. But when it was dark, and the sun or stars could not be seen, they did not know which way to sail. And a ship was borne by the winds and carried on rocks and wrecked.

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